Former Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown set to become Greens' newest MP

Former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown will enter Parliament after the resignation of Golriz Ghahraman.
Former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown will enter Parliament after the resignation of Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: RNZ

Story by RNZ

With the resignation of Golriz Ghahraman, former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown is set to enter Parliament as the Greens' newest MP.

Ghahraman resigned on Tuesday, effective immediately, after three separate accusations of shoplifting in Auckland and Wellington.

At 15th on the party's list, Wade-Brown will automatically take Ghahraman's place.

Co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson told reporters in Auckland they had spoken to Wade-Brown, and while they would not speak of the details of that conversation they welcomed the former mayor's entry to the caucus.

"Celia is a very, very experienced politician," Shaw said. "She's won seven elections during the course of her career and of course two of those as mayor of Wellington.

"She brings a long history of public service and a very practical understanding of the challenges that are faced in our urban environments, particularly around transport and housing and so on.

Davidson said Wade-Brown was sad at the circumstances that had led to her entry to Parliament, "but she's going to rock the place".

"I've particularly noted her ongoing priorities around Tiriti justice, equality, making sure that everyone has what they need to live dignified lives. These are all kaupapa that are core to our heart, and so we welcome her.

Wade-Brown stood for the Green Party in the Wairarapa electorate in last year's election, and came fourth behind National's Mike Butterick, Labour's Kieran McAnulty, and ACT's Simon Casey.

However, she only campaigned for the party vote, increasing Green votes in the region to nearly 8.2 percent in the final count, up from 5.2 percent in the previous election which she also contested.

She grew up in England, the daughter of a British military officer, but moved to Wellington in 1983.

After unsuccessful bids for Parliament in 1996 under the Alliance, and in 1999 under the Greens, she was a Wellington City councillor in the Southern Ward for nine years from 2001 before becoming mayor for another six years in 2010.

She officially ran as an independent, but was well known as a member of the Green Party - even standing for Parliament again in 2002 under the Green banner after being elected to council.

She was the city's third female mayor, coming right on the heels of Kerry Prendergast who she defeated by just 176 votes in 2010.

She also made news at discovering a second half-sister in Austria, her father having been stationed there during the Second World War. She had previously learned a girl who grew up with the family as her grandmother's adopted daughter was also, in fact, her half-sister.

Known also for her love of cycling around the city, Wade-Brown once biked to the airport in 2010 to meet with Hillary Clinton.

She led a campaign for more cycleways across the city, and the council's cycling budget tripled under her leadership.

However, this also included the infamous Island Bay cycleway which she later admitted had suffered from a "collective mistake" - the council narrowing down design options too quickly with too little community input.

The World Economic Forum in 2016 recognised her as one of five groundbreaking female mayors around the world.

She admitted in an interview with The Spinoff in September that she had done a deal with Justin Lester to keep him on as her deputy mayor, agreeing to back his mayoral campaign in the following term.

After handing the mayoral chains over to him, she moved to a tiny off-grid cottage on a 250-hectare property bordering Tararua Forest Park in 2018 with her husband Alastair, farming carbon, trapping pests, maintaining tracks and nurturing seedlings.

The pair also tramped the 3000km Te Araroa trail - walking the length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff - and took up river kayaking.