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Kerry Prenderghastly: Sauron of the South Seas

Kerry Prenderghastly: Sauron of the South Seas
by Tom Bombadil

The Lord of the Rings premiere is happening in Wellington on Monday and the City Council has been busily tidying up for the superstars and estimated 100,000 spectators. But beneath this glossy surface, Mayor Kerry Prendergast and the WCC are up to some very dirty tricks.

The Mayor, along with a complicit coterie of councillors, have passed a range of bylaws and initiatives intended to rid the city of anything that doesn't fit with their narrow view of what Wellington should be. In other words, they want to create a city for wealthy elites and overseas visitors, not local communities.

The bylaws have received quite a bit of coverage in the past year. Most disturbing is a move to sweep all of the homeless off of the streets. Ben Hana, otherwise known as 'Blanket man.' is in jail and the handful of other 'locals' have simply disappeared. Complementing the homeless bylaw is a ban on drinking or carrying alcohol in the central city. While this might sound like a good idea, consider who will be stopped and searched under this bylaw - a pakeha man in a business suit or a young Maori guy with dreadlocks? This is a tool for racial profiling.

Initiatives by the WCC include more of the Rogernomic-era type privatisation; this time, of Council buildings home to community groups and Council carparks. The valuable block between Willis and Victoria Streets will be sold off, driving groups such as the Community Law Centre, Alay Migrant Centre and Wellington Independent Rape Crisis to fringe locations around the city. Meanwhile, the WCC is now the proud owner of the Embassy Theatre, a gift to the multinational film corporation, New Line Cinemas. Councillors knew from the beginning that ratepayers were just funding private enterprise and would never see any returns on this project.

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The WCC is also conducting Closed Circuit Television surveillance of the Cuba/Manners Street area in what they call a public safety initiative. The WCC is not regularly monitoring these cameras so it would be very difficult to respond if a person was in trouble. However, as the cameras do record, they provide good evidence of property damage for the Mayor's husband, property developer Rex Nicholls who owns businesses directly in the gaze of the cameras.

Finally, the Mayor has signalled an intention to remove the 'Welcome to Wellington - A Nuclear-Free city' sign from the Airport. This sign was not funded nor is it maintained by the Council, although it is on Council land.

Mayor Prendergast doesn't think the sign fits her 'strategic vision' for the city and she would prefer to brand this as a 'Council gateway'. The deputy mayor, Alick Shaw, was presented with more than a 1,000 signatures last week on a petition calling on the WCC to keep the sign. Although Councillor Shaw refused to take the issue to a Council meeting, members of the community will certainly call the members of Council to account.

Local body elections are next year and already groups are mobilising to change the face of the WCC. Wellington must first and foremost be a city for the people who live here.


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