News | 31 March 2021

Meet the man who ensures meetings run smoothly

He loves wrestling, going to the gym, and speaks four languages. But Cyrus Frear is also in charge of making sure Wellington City Council meetings run smoothly and according to the law – for elected officials, Council officers, and members of the public.

We sat down with him to find out what he does, how he does it, and why he loves his job.

Cyrus Frear, Wellington City Council's Senior Democracy Advisor, looking smart in a nice blue suit and purple tie, with greenery behind him.

What’s your job title

Senior Democracy Advisor.

What does it entail?

Making sure Council makes decisions according to legislation and standing orders (which are rules adopted by Council for efficient and regulated running of meetings).

We also make sure the public have their say in a variety of ways: public participation at meetings, hearings, forums, and petitions.

I’m also the holder of the forward programme, which is a detailed spreadsheet of all Council and committee meetings and workshops; so I have the pleasure of liaising with officers from across the organisation. This makes my job very interesting because I enjoy socialising.

How long have you been here?

I joined on 25 March 2019, my birthday week! Every time I think about it, I feel good because I feel I was reborn when I joined Wellington City Council. I did indeed become a new man as many important things have happened to me since I have been working here.

What were you doing before?

Same kind of role with fewer responsibilities at Porirua City Council. It was my first job in New Zealand and basically a stepping-stone. This is the reality of moving countries; you need to lower your expectations and prove your worth again. But it’s totally worth it.

How long have you been in New Zealand?

Nearly four years.

Where were you before here?

I was born in Iran but I wanted to have more freedom and to make my own life choices, so after completing a degree in English literature (which allowed me to be able to do this) I left the country in 2008. I won a scholarship to study for a Masters in Business Administration in South Korea. From there I was offered a Marketing and PR position for a higher education events company in Singapore. I then made the decision to move to New Zealand.

What did you want to do when you got to New Zealand?

My most recent degree is a Bachelor of Law as I had intended to become a lawyer in New Zealand. But after I experienced the semi-political world of a democracy advisor, I decided to grow in this field instead and use my legal training indirectly in the work I do.

How long before you understood our democratic processes?

Well, I learnt the process while I was at Porirua and I learnt it fairly quickly too, thanks to my legal training. Luckily the Democracy Services manager at Porirua used to lead the democracy services team in Wellington so a lot of the technical systems, as well as the thinking style, were similar in both teams.

Cyrus Frear, Wellington City Council's Senior Democracy Advisor, in his bright yellow t-shirt and running shoes standing near the edge of a cliffside overlooking the water on a blue-sky day after a hike.

Talk us through your day / week

It depends on the time of the year. During the long meeting breaks in January and July I focus on projects. For instance, last year I reviewed the standing orders, and two days before we went into lockdown, Council adopted an updated, more sensible set of standing orders.

When Council meetings are back on, my focus is mainly Strategy and Policy committee meeting agendas and minutes and procedural advice to officers and elected members. I prepare and distribute the reports in advance, make sure public participants have all the information they need, and prepare chair’s notes for the chairperson and runsheet for the organisation. Councillors email their amendments to me and officers, so they need to be organised too.

Here at Wellington City Council we take minutes live, which is a service you rarely see anywhere else in the country. After the meeting I finalise the minutes and publish them.

I also like to wrestle on Mondays with my wrestling buddies at Tawa Tigers, and go to the gym most nights if I’m not too tired.

Best bit of your job?

Helping members of the public speak to their Council. I personally love petitions! And in fact, one of the areas of improvement I found was our e-petition system. We reviewed the process and made it 100 percent democratic. Wellington City Council is the only Council in the country that provides residents with the opportunity to lodge a petition electronically. As a matter of fact, I received a call from the City of Vancouver wanting to know more about our e-petition system.

Worst bit?

As someone who works closely with staff from across the organisation and from a variety of ranks, I know that Council officers work hard to action the resolutions made at Council. It makes me sad when I hear people criticise Council workers.

Most interesting meeting?

For me personally it was the social housing rent setting hearing last year where I had the pleasure of interpreting an oral submitter. I speak four languages, Persian, Italian, Korean and English. At this meeting I was translating Persian. It was quite interesting as I had to remove myself from the governance advisor seat next to the Chair and sit at the public participation end with the oral submitter, and then go back to sit next to the chair!

I have liked all the meetings I have managed as lead advisor and support officer, apart from one. The gambling policy hearings. Some of the stories people had were upsetting.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am a total exercise freak! I’m currently studying to be a personal trainer as I really want to share my energy and passion for being healthy and fit. Hopefully I can influence and make people’s lives better, both in their health and mental wellbeing.