“I believe Wellington is a city of opportunity, community and diversity. However, to make sure this is the reality for all residents I am committed to inclusive growth for all. This is because fighting inequality on a social, environmental and economic level will continue my quest to create a city that all Wellingtonians and our future generations are proud to call home.”
Justin Lester was elected Mayor in 2016. He joined Wellington City Council as a Northern Ward Councillor in 2010, going on to serve as Deputy Mayor from 2013 until 2016.
The mayoralty had a literal shaky start, with the Kaikoura earthquake occurring in his first month in office. This made resilience a top priority for his Council, along with growing a strong economy, making housing affordable, improving Wellington’s transport network, and ensuring Wellington remains New Zealand’s Capital of Culture and becomes the first predator-free city in the world. Justin lives in Johnsonville with his wife Liz and two daughters.
He has an LLB and a BA (German) from the University of Otago and a Masters of Laws (LLM) from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He co-founded Kapai, a Wellington food enterprise, and worked in executive management in the private sector.
Established in late 2016, Mayor’s Taskforce for Housing, made up of representatives from the building industry, social services, public health sector, central government, and the property industry, was created by Mayor Justin Lester to take a comprehensive look at all aspects of the housing market in Wellington. The Taskforce recommendations were released in June 2017 and included a multi-faceted approach to make Wellington homes warm, safe and dry, including:
-Develop a Wellington City housing quality standard framework to support the Council’s work to improve the safety and quality of Wellington’s home.
-Investigate mechanisms for voluntary inspections of new and existing builds, and implement a pilot to trial.
-Develop and provide information about what a quality house looks like. This needs to make easy to understand information available to property owners and tenants about how to make a home warm, safe and dry. It should include minimum legal standards, best practice, a range of options and where possible an estimate of costs so owners can plan.
-Work with landlords and developers to determine whether incentives and assistance would be required and what would be effective if a housing quality standard is introduced. This could tie in with work with landlords and tenants to develop a model for longer term tenancies.
-Investigate ways to recognise positive landlord/tenant behaviour, and encourage a positive relationship between the two groups. Options include news stories/landlord of the month awards.
-Explore the range of tools available to incentivise and/ or introduce a rental warrant of fitness and associated inspection scheme – eg rates rebates, legislative tools.
Mayor Justin Lester announced on the 3rd of September that Wellington City Council has become New Zealand’s first fully accredited Living Wage Council. The Council joins around 100 New Zealand employers who are on the 2018/19 list of Living Wage Employers as the largest fully-accredited Living Wage employer in New Zealand, followed by Vector and Tuarōpaki Trust. The Living Wage is an independently researched hourly rate based on the actual cost of living, and is reviewed annually. The current Living Wage is $20.55NZ per hour.
The Te Reo Māori Policy is the first step toward Wellington recognising the status of te reo Māori as a taonga of iwi Māori and to create a framework to help guide the actions of the Council – to celebrate te reo Māori and support the revitalisation of the language within Council activities and Wellington City. This is part of a wider push, championed by Mayor Justin Lester, and Deputy Mayor Jill Day (the first indigenous Female deputy) to integrate New Zealand’s indigenous culture into the city and preserve Māori culture and heritage. Since the Policy was passed WCC has undertaken numerous actions and plenty of activities to implement the policy, including the largest Māori Language Week celebration in the country!