• By Alok
There is so much energy, excitement and pride in being the mayor of the coolest little capital of the world. Still deep rooted in the humbleness of the ordinary townhouse up- bringing, she reaches people with love, affection and fondness.
Celia Wade–Brown, the Mayor of the Wellingotn city, has a mission, vision and passion to keep our beautiful paradise in middle of the pacific growing economically in harmony with natural environment. And she is so super charged to be the host again as the Cricket World Cup is approaching…….
Lets get some insight on various subjects of our affable, very approachable and loveable Mayor, who seems so much like our care taker next door neighbor…
Q- How does it feel to be the Mayor of the coolest little capital of the world?
Ans- Isn’t it lovely, when I was first elected Mayor, very shortly after that, the ‘Lonely planet guide’, call us the coolest little capital of the world. Then you carry on and do your best as a Mayor and then to have the accolade of ‘Vogue’ saying the coolest little city in the world. It shows that we are probably even better then in 2010. Somebody described our city very beautifully as the goldilocks city. A city no-too- small & not-too-big. Just right. There are very few places in the world where you can do everything from cultural to wilderness to kayaking, only driving very short distances.
Q- Do tell us something about your younger days and your family background?
Ans- I grew up in county flats in London, I actually was born in St Mary’s hospital in Paddignton, which is the same one as prince George, I was just born in the public wing. My father was a engineer, my mother was a physiotherapist, they were quite thoughtful, intelligent people, not great with their qualifications but they were very keen towards my education.
Q- How different it is now from the time you have landed 3 decades back?
Ans- Its more multicultural now, more events getting celebrated, in those days Maories Matariki wasn’t celebrated, now you see Indian, Chinese, and many other celebrations we become the part of. I reckon that’s a very big change. There are more immigrants from wider range of countries. Which I would to call the diversity advantage.
Q- You have a long history of serving people at different levels since 1994 after you joined active politics, how is the journey so far?
Ans- I was first elected in 1994, and then stepping up from being a councilor through to being a Mayor, is quite a big step up. Its very challenging and equally rewarding as well.
Q- How are the businesses fairing in the capital?
Ans- Businesses are growing well, but it could grow faster, In-fact our capital city never really had the recession, it just slowed down and it did not go backwards. We have expanded the number of new businesses in only last year by 2500. The area I am very excited about businesses are growing is in films. Ours is pretty much the only place in the world where you can take a film from creative design to physical work-shop effect, digital effects, locations, to the post production. One-Stop-Shop for film making.
Q- You have a very amiable, approachable and generous personality, does it come naturally to you or you have to work hard for it being a public figure?
Ans- I think I am generally interested in different countries and different people and having come from a council flat myself I find reasonably comfortable with people from all backgrounds. One of the reason I settled in NZ because, it is one of the country where it does not actually matter who your parents are, what you want to do. It is theoretically very egalitarian society. It is also very new country, the excitement of being the country which is settled by the humans latest in the world but still able to draw the wisdom and culture of the ancient civilizations. Its quite an exciting combination.
I only take extra care, as a public figure to not to hurt anybody’s feelings. I think I have the ability to connect with people. For example I was able to connect a hotel business with charity so that they now, use unused food, toiletries to passed onto this charity to distribute. We have worked on ‘zero food waste poverty’, we funded an organization called ‘Kaibosh’ , they are connected with 40 different charities to have further connected with about 50 different hotels, markets café’s , where they get food which is still perfect good to eat but not sold closer to sell by date, to reach to the needies on time to make good use of it.. They won national community award last year.
Q- Which is your toughest challenge so far, since you have adopted the public life?
Ans- I think its really hard to say no to people or events. I always want to say yes to accommodate requests like launching a book or attending a festival or a cultural programme. So saying no to some is the toughest challenge for me though at times I need to keep sometime for myself and my family.
Q- We are so diverse in NZ with so many ethnicities living amicably, what’s your take on S Asian/ Indian communities contribution to the growth and development of NZ as a whole?
Ans- Its very broad, I see a great deal of financial acumen in Indians, Indians and S Asian are contributing a lot in IT ( Information Technology). They contribute a lot form economic point of view, cuisine point for view. I remember when I came to NZ there was only one prominent Indian restaurant called the ‘Bengal Tiger’, the proliferation of restaurants has been wonderful. I really like S Indian food, as I am mainly vegetarian I only eat fish and sea food at times. So the Indian cuisine is one of the easiest to eat, with such huge range of things. There is contribution in thought leadership also. There are number of professors and lecturers in different universities. They off course contribute in political sphere as well.
Q- What aspects of Indianness you like most ?
Ans- I am influenced a lot by Indianess around, I have done Yoga, I have made samosaas and chhapatis, my favoraite Indian dish is saag paneer. When I get to cook myself I prefer to cook chana daal or chana masala.
Q- Have you been to India ?
Ans- Yes, I been to India in 1985, on my way to see my parents on UK, I stopped in Delhi for few days, went to see Taj Mahal , saw old observatory, red fort, it reminded of the scientific knowledge the Indian community has shared since ancient times, we more often think about India on the spiritual side or on cuisine side but their scientific contribution is immese too, and more recent the mars landing justifies that.
I then went to Jammu then to Sri Nagar, stayed in a housboat in Dal lake, swam in the lake too. Staying in the Shikara in the middle of the lake was just beautiful. Then I took the bus too Leh in Laddakh, stayed a night in Kargil, in Leh explored beautiful monasteries.
I would very much like to explore some other parts of India, my mate Jane Watson who supports the orphanage ‘Karunai-illam’, the southern Indian state of Kerala sounds fascinating. Different states in India sounds like different countries, they are so different from each other, amazing.
Q- Wellington has got a great name for its beauty, hospitality and amazing film production facilities, are we able to en-cash that reputation in terms of tourism and economic growth ?
Ans- We have put together the agencies to promote Wellington to the business communities and to tourism, and infact to international students. We have created on umbrella agency as the “ Wellington Region Economic Development Agency’ to promote Wellington effectively for business, tourism and on educational spectrum internationally. We are very keen on promoting Wellington as educational destination.
We are the only capital in the whole world to have accredited with World Health Organization as ‘Safer Community’, which means parents are happy to send their children here.
We are also working on the airport extension, engineering work and analysis work is complete. I am on the airport board, we need around 300million to do that , and the direct benefit to the airport is the city the region and country as a whole. As you increase the number of international ports you increase the total number of overseas visitors. We are working what contribution the central government and councils are ready to make. We would be putting the resource applications consent in the first half of next year. It still has to through a long procedure.
Q- As a host you have handled the Rugby World Cup beautifully well, and now the Cricket World Cup is approaching, are you ready again as a city chief?
ANS- I think Wellington is really ready, although NZ & Australia are the co-host of the world cup, we are very excited we have got two England games, Sri lanka, UAE and a quarter final. So we are going to be busy in Wellington.
Q- What special preparations are we making for the Cricket World –Cup like we did for the Rugby world cup in Wellington ?
Ans- We are going a have a Fan-Hub in the civic square. As its been a more than month long event, starting for us from 20th Feb, as we look forward to have a lot more Indian visitors as well, cause we might host India here in the quarter-finals.
Q-Do we have some estimate of the numbers of the visitors we might host during the world cup?
Ans- As the English team will be camped here, at that time of the summer, so we look forward have all our hotels and businesses very busy. I am in consultation with the Indian high commission who is bringing some Indian businesses in our capitol city as well.
Q- What do you aspire to achieve for Wellington as its Mayor ?
Ans- Its about having the economic growth in harmony with the natural environment and that includes everybody. Part of that includes affordable housing, council social housing, we are also keen to get more places built.
Q- Your biggest dream of aspiration personally and professionally?
Ans- Oh…! , professionally it is very much that Wellington is growing economically in harmony with environment. So if we have for eg, Miramar peninsula, or Karori sanctuary or Somes island as fountains of bio diversity, and the marine reserves, dolphins or the orca, stingrays in the harbor, and we have more jobs and we have more people using bus and trains then using their own cars, it will continue to be a little paradise in the middle of the pacific.
Personally I am really enjoying this role. I feel very fulfilled, my personal goal is to enjoy the moment and achieve the strategic success for the city.
Q- What does spiritually mean to you ?
Ans- I think there are common threads across many world religions, more focus for the care of other people and the gentleness for the natural world will make this world a better place to live for all.
Q- Your message to the community?
Ans– Wellignton is the coolest little city in the world and we welcome both existing residents and new settlers.