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IMG_4066 (photo: Matthias Seidenstucker)

Most of my friends”, says Nic­ola Young, “are scream­ing lefties.” This is apro­pos of the view in some parts that the city’s new­est coun­cil­lor — one who hap­pens to have her eye on the may­or­al chains — is rather right wing. “That’s not the case,” she says, lightly but firmly. “I think I’m a cent­rist.” She works in PR, is involved with vari­ous arts organ­isa­tions, and has helped raise funds for opera pro­duc­tions. Socially, she says, “I move in a very wide circle.”

Her back­ground is impec­cably of the Right: her fath­er, Bill Young, was the Nation­al MP for Miramar from 1966 to 1981; one of her sis­ters, Anna­bel, was a Nation­al list MP between 1997 and 2002, and a second sis­ter, Rose­mary, is mar­ried to the former hard­line Nation­al cab­in­et min­is­ter Max Bradford.

But, Young says, her father’s seat was the most mar­gin­al in the coun­try; the les­son she drew from that was that “everyone’s a voter”. She her­self stood for Nation­al in Ron­go­tai in 2005, but is no longer a party mem­ber. After not get­ting elec­ted to Par­lia­ment, she vowed she would “nev­er go near polit­ics again”, but says that Pori­rua May­or Nick Leg­gett — gen­er­ally seen as a Labour fig­ure — “waged a cam­paign” to get her to run for coun­cil. She also describes anoth­er Labour per­son, fel­low coun­cil­lor Paul Eagle, as her “polit­ic­al bestie”.

Young may look, and occa­sion­ally sound, like a mem­ber of Wellington’s elite, liv­ing in an Ebor Street apart­ment with a cap­it­al value of over $800,000. But she has also been a solo moth­er who raised two chil­dren dur­ing a 20-year stint in Lon­don “with no sup­port from their fath­er”; at one point, she says she “couldn’t afford to go out for cof­fee. It’s not like I have always had this priv­ileged existence.”

She calls her­self “an icon­o­clast”, and says: “I don’t want a Wel­ling­ton which is only good for rich people.” Some would argue she shouldn’t then have been one of the few coun­cil­lors to vote last year against giv­ing poorly paid coun­cil staff a Liv­ing Wage of $18.40 an hour. But she dis­misses the Liv­ing Wage as “show­man­ship”, and says things like stop­ping bus fare increases would have a much great­er impact.

She also backs a War­rant of Fit­ness for all rent­al hous­ing. She is, how­ever, “against gov­ern­ment inter­ven­ing too much”, and would be open to ideas like re-examin­ing the high­er con­tri­bu­tion that cent­ral Wel­ling­ton busi­nesses make to the rates bill. “I’d cer­tainly want to have a really good look at it. I don’t see the fair­ness in that. We’ve got to make sure busi­nesses do well in Wellington.”

Last year Young ran for may­or as well as coun­cil, and plans to do so again in 2016: “Abso­lutely, I will have a go.” She’s open about her belief that the city has been “becalmed” for the four years of Celia Wade-Brown’s ten­ure. In pre­par­a­tion for 2016, and in order to be a bet­ter coun­cil­lor, she’s assidu­ously learn­ing about areas that aren’t tra­di­tion­ally her strengths, like social ser­vices. A sharp, inquis­it­ive mind (she went to uni­ver­sity aged 16, and later trained as a journ­al­ist) is clearly an asset — as long as math­em­at­ics aren’t involved. “Stat­ist­ics don’t really do it for me,” she says, adding later, “I’m not a number-cruncher.”

But even if suc­cess­ful in her second bid, Young doesn’t want to become a polit­ic­al fix­ture. She makes no attempt to hide her con­tempt for the coun­cil­lors she thinks have been around too long. “Twelve years [on coun­cil] is long enough. If you haven’t achieved some­thing in 12 years, you’re not going to achieve it.” So what do her long-serving col­leagues, such as Andy Foster (22 years on coun­cil) and Helene Ritch­ie (28 years), think about that? “They don’t like it,” she says, eyes twinkling.