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'Thankful': Tory Whanau speaks for first time since revealing drinking problem

Vita Molyneux and Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 9:45AM

'Thankful': Tory Whanau speaks for first time since revealing drinking problem

Vita Molyneux and Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 9:45AM

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau has spoken for the first time since revealing she has a drinking problem, saying she is “deeply thankful” for the support she has received and is looking forward to returning to work. 

Whanau also revealed she has contracted Covid-19 for the fourth time and will attend today’s council committee meeting from home as she recovers. 

It comes a day after Whanau publicly admitted she has a drinking problem and is seeking “professional help” for it after details of an incident at a Wellington bar a fortnight ago emerged yesterday. 

Environment and Infrastructure Committee acting chairman Tim Brown opened today’s meeting by acknowledging there has been quite a bit of media coverage in the last 24 hours. 

”I would just like to wish Tory kia kaha and you’ve got my personal support - we are looking forward to you being fully back on board Tory and we hope that you go through these challenges and come out stronger, which I’m sure you will.” 

Brown, a first-term councillor, said he has been pleasantly surprised by how effectively the council can work. 

”My own observation of the council is the people around this table and the people in the room in general actually work extremely well together.” 

Tory Whanau told the Herald she has received several hundred messages of support in the last day, and was thankful to everyone who had contacted her. 

”I am deeply thankful and looking forward to getting stuck back into the mahi.” 

”I hope others who may be struggling with alcohol issues can see that there is support for you out there also. That you can still seek help and still commit to your passions, work, family, friends in a way that is meaningful. 

”We are complex, layered people and deserving of love. I am here for all of us.” 

Whanau had hinted last night that video of her drunken behaviour may be circulating in the public domain. 

Barbara McKerrow, in her capacity as Wellington City Council chief executive, said she supported the mayor and will continue to maintain a constructive and positive relationship with her. 

“I care for her wellbeing and will be working with her office to ensure that she gets the care that she needs.” 

Councillor Nicola Young said today, in relation to the mayor’s drinking, that Whanau was “clearly not well, which is sad, but Wellington can’t go on hold because of her health issues”. 

“Mayoralty is not a job which you can do with addictive issues and I suspect that’s why she’s been largely absent from council recently,” Young told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning. 

Young said that there had been a big increase in meetings being run over Zoom. 

Another councillor, Tony Randle, said Whanau’s drinking problem explained why she has been missing in action and said they were concerned she might not be able to hold office. 

It’s understood the latest incident occurred at Wellington’s Havana Bar late in the afternoon of November 18, with media reports that she and another person were “visibly” intoxicated. 

Randle said the issue has a major effect on her ability to do her job. 

He said Whanau cancelled councillor-only meetings just weeks ago, and while he was sympathetic the job of mayor is crucial. 

“I am sympathetic about Tory’s drinking problem, and it may explain her being increasingly distant from many councillors. But she has a huge job as mayor, especially when our city has so many major challenges,” said Randle. 

“I am worried we will be making decisions about the city’s Long Term Plan and District Plan when the city’s leader is distracted by personal issues and not communicating with all councillors. Wellington will suffer.” 

He said he hoped Whanau would be able to turn her personal life around, for the sake of herself and for all Wellingtonians. 

However, several other councillors have spoken out in support of Whanau, as has Deputy Mayor Laurie Foon. 

Foon said she fully supported Whanau. 

“We need more real people like Tory to be in politics. And real people, have flaws that they should be able to deal with in their own way. I will continue to support Tory because she is a good person who works hard for our city and people- flaws and all. And that hard work will continue.” 


Where to get help: 

  • If you or someone you know needs support and treatment to reduce their alcohol intake, call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, visit their website, or free text 8681 for confidential advice.

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist. 

Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021. 

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