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WHO WILL LEAD UPPER HUTT INTO 2023

Misinformation spreading and the hope and future of a small city.

I’ve shown a bit of interest in my old hometown of late as the local election ticks around. I’ve looked at all the Mayoral candidates and done a bit of digging under the surface. 

A Mayor can and should be a key player in a city’s growth and can make a big impact both negatively and positively depending on their skills, networks and approach. Take Wayne Guppy the mayor of Upper Hutt who has led a council that appears to have done well, 96% of citizens say they feel safe in their homes.The city is booming and investment is at an all time high. Industrial areas are popping up that are bringing thousands of workers each day to Upper Hutt.

But there seems to be some sort of major problem with Upper Hutt with some saying it needs fresh leadership so I looked at what the major problems were. 

I interviewed Helen Swales Guppys deputy and found a crisp leader with good experience and a great conversational manner. I couldn’t reconcile why Swales would be running the Petone street program, effectively competing with Upper Hutt. Swales says it’s not a conflict of interest and Upper Hutt defunded her local role some time ago. When asked if there was anything broken Swales stated she didn’t see anything broken with Upper Hutt but said her time had come to lead the city. She did say Guppy had trusted her with some big meetings and the finance portfolio which may have given her the confidence to have a go.

We then completed a zoom meeting with Cr Mcloed who was a really energetic person. Quiet one minute and highly animated the next. We then took a closer look at the social pages.

Upon reading some key social media pages such as the upper hutt community facebook page, some of that pages members were complaining about potholes, empty shops, gangs and crime, the mall charging for car parks, most of which are out of councils and Mayors control. If these are the only problems facing Upper Hutt then I’m moving back and suggest the current mayor should be seriously considered for one more term..

One Upper hutt business person put it, “Never change a winning team and if you do, do it slightly slowly and never change the coach or captain”. By any measure Upper Hutt is winning, so it’s a stretch to see voters seriously considering a change and potentially taking huge risk with an unproven leader and possibly ending a long growth patch.

Whilst other cities in the region are complaining about huge rate hikes, my old home town appears to be listening to a new negative story that may cost it in the long run, with infighting and large rate hikes similar to the rest of us.

In order to take a balanced look at the landscape I interviewed current mayor Guppy contender Angela Mcloed and deputy Mayor Helen Swales.

Guppy the incumbent appears to love the city and feels with the recent spate of investment, things are tracking well but does suggest crime, potholes, and infrastructure will lead the conversation going forward. He has been accused of supporting Amalgamation, but he says he does not, stating he wants to prepare the city to have these discussions. He is worried his contenders have no cohesive plan or actual experience to lead Upper Hutt through what will potentially be a very tough 3 years. It appears there is unfinished business out here.

It looks as though this mayoral race may be heading into negative territory with challenger Mcloed saying she wants to run a positive campaign but posting recently that she is being personally attacked. Our investigation shows Misinformation posts and messages from Mcloed followers to other candidates and a minor war between mayoral hopeful Keith Bennett and Mcloed. One misinformative post from one of Mcleod’s followers was so blatantly false it caused threats of legal action. Mcloed says that she is not responsible for what her friends post.

Talking of being unable to influence a decision, mayoral hopeful Angela McCloed says one of her main pillars is to get rest home operators to pay their staff more wages, the issue with that hope is she has no influence over that decision. We checked with two other mayors in the region, both state that it would not be smart to meddle in a private company and it is an operational matter. This could be seen as a hollow promise with no intention or capability to follow through by Mcloed. Mcleod was asked about this and when asked to give specifics she would not engage with an answer at all and a couple of her followers came in to attack the writer and suggest we were bullying.

 As we dig more we find McLeod in more trouble, using police resources to try to dismiss another candidate’s views with the spat going all the way to an official OIA request to prove his point. As the police recording says Mcloeds claims were without merit.

And another Mayoral candidate saying Mcloed is a very aggressive player. A stark contrast to her public comments, image and our Zoom interview.

This type of scrapping is something Upper Hutt hasn’t experienced. If left unchecked it could lead Upper Hutt the same way Wellington council was, paralyzed by infighting.

We’ve looked closer at Mcleod and found her stand on supporting a free trade agreement alongside Mayoral contender Helen Swales. When they both moved a motion and voted to support it, effectively trying to block International trade with Upper Hutt, leading to Upper Hutt becoming the laughing stock of other MP’s and senior business leaders throughout New Zealand.

When Mcleod was asked about this in a zoom meeting her reply was somewhat peculiar.

Most of our Zoom interview with McCleod was cordial and warm with good hope for Upper Hutt and many say there is no doubt that as a counselor she would have a lot to offer the city.

As we have been covering Mayoral debates throughout the region we have asked other business leaders about the city and the clear response is that Upper Hutt as other cities will face centralization, amalgamation and water challenges, and that the current mayor is the right person to lead the city through these changes. Mcleod may have misjudged her run by a few years.

Current Mayor Guppy’s response about Mcleod is that she has done some strange things such as the free trade thing but he says she is a hard worker. He replies to him being referred to as being over the hill, that he is committed as ever and encouraged to see the city through the next big issues that will come from the central government. That he has the information, the networks and support to keep Upper Hutt on a progressive and successful pathway.

When challenged about the potholes and empty shops, he stated the potholes cannot be fixed until the roads dry out and the contractors have been busy fixing slips and says he hears this often and councils are doing a lot to get ahead of this issue. This was corroborated by the council’s maintenance department lead. 

Guppy says shops in the Main Street have been affected by Covid but we are seeing a rebound and better spending in the community, we are coming into summer so that should see a rebound in trading conditions. Guppy stated that it’s easy to forget about Covid and the impacts that it had and continues to have, which were the most significant set of challenges a country and a city like upper hutt has ever faced outside of war time. He says “we came through it better than some”.

At the time of writing, after repeated requests Mcleod hadn’t responded to questions about her promise to improve the nurse’s wages issue.