'She said she always wanted a tattoo'

4:50 pm on 17 January 2017

Former Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown asked for, but was denied, a ratepayer-funded tattoo as her leaving gift.

The former mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, requested - but was denied - a ratepayer-funded tattoo as her leaving gift.

Celia Wade-Brown's colleagues - not ratepayers - paid for the tattoo on her ankle. Photo: Facebook

In September, Ms Wade-Brown asked the Wellington City Council to pay for the gecko tattoo to mark her time as mayor, which ended the following month when Justin Lester took up the role.

The council declined the request and chose a park bench instead.

Ms Wade-Brown told RNZ she had wanted a tattoo for several years. "My son did me a lovely design a few years ago and I was always going to get around to getting it done sometime," she said.

"I hadn't really thought about a leaving gift, when I was approached by the staff asking what would I like as leaving gift from council.

"The first thing that sprung to my mind was that I'd really like to get this tattoo done. I suspect at the time it was a little bit unconventional, but I'm quite happy that I've ended up with a park bench somewhere that the public will be able to use instead."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and a soldier paying their respects.

Ms Wade-Brown was the capital city's mayor from 2010 to 2016. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the request was declined over concerns about how it would be perceived by the public.

"She said she always wanted a tattoo, so there was a discussion about whether that would get above the non-controversial bar at the council, and it was decided that it probably wasn't the best idea given the predictable level of outrage that would result if it became public," he said.

"It was agreed that a park bench would be a better gift to be funded by the ratepayers."

He said Ms Wade-Brown's colleagues chipped in themselves towards getting her the tattoo, which she now sports on her ankle.

The former mayor said she fully supported the council's decision.

"I think a council has to be pretty conventional. But I'm quite happy because I've done quite a lot for the natural environment in Wellington, so a park bench in one of our lovely reserves will be just fine."

Ms Wade-Brown said her colleagues gave her a voucher to get the tattoo done by a Wellington studio, and she was delighted by their gesture.

"It's a forest gecko and it wasn't too painful either."

Mr MacLean said the tradition of farewell gifts for departing mayors usually included crystal bowls, flowers or park benches.