It’s been a fun weekend for speculation with the rumour mill going into overdrive starting on Friday.
First we had Phil Goff’s spin doctors trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. They fitted up the NBR good and proper by spreading a rumour that there was to be a left/right tilt at the Mayoralty with Goff as Mayor and Desley Simpson, current Chair of the Orakei Local Board, as his Deputy – only nobody told Desley. Maybe Labour they saw this as a ‘soft’ launch of Goff’s campaign, as suggested by Cameron Brewer. If so it was pretty inept.
Not to be upstaged by this little sideshow, Judith Collins’ column appeared in the Sunday Star Times under the title ‘Auckland needs a mayor with guts. Any takers?’ Some commentators have taken this as a possible sign that Judith herself might be after the job.
Auckland needs a mayor with guts. Any takers?
I’ve never had a cross word with Len Brown. In all the years I’ve known him as a lawyer, as a Manukau city councillor, as Mayor of Manukau and then Mayor of Auckland, we’ve never had any unpleasantries. Perhaps that’s his problem. He’s had a lifetime of saying “yes” when occasionally he should have said, “no”. He’s a nice, pleasant person who, unfortunately, has not delivered for the people of wider Auckland.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have listened to the royal commission that Labour set up and left us with. Perhaps we should have gone for the Three Cities option that Sir Barry Curtis and Sir Bob Harvey promoted. But, whatever, this is what we have. A sprawling city the size of London with a population the size of Perth’s.
What we desperately needed in our mayor was strength. Credibility and the ability to dominate the conversation wouldn’t have gone astray, either. The ability to bring all sides together, to inspire, to drive through vision would have been welcome. Instead, we got a Labour ex-councillor who peopled his office and his team with ex-unionists and people whose mission it was to keep him in a job no matter what. It could have been so much more.
I do not share Judith’s view of Brown as a 'nice' guy. I saw him in action first hand as he trashed any notion of co-governance with the local boards. He wasn’t very pleasant then I can tell you.
I knew Brown was doomed when he stated that he was the second-most important person in New Zealand after the prime minister. Really? When Auckland’s mayor thinks his job is to have a foreign relations policy, you know it’s all over. Where were his advisers? Who was saying, “Earth to Len?”
And so we come now to who will replace him. I give points to Mark Thomas who doesn’t have a huge profile – which really is needed to win. At least Thomas has had the courage to say he’s standing. At least he has had the courage not to pretend and insult the voters by playing coy.
When I first stood for election during that terrible time (for National) of 2002, I was a lawyer. I worked in a large law firm and I was chair of the Casino Control Authority. As soon as I was selected for the then-marginal seat of Clevedon, I stood aside from both those positions. I took unpaid leave from my full-time work. That meant I really had skin in the game.
In those dark days of campaigning, when the winter election was called early, and our poll numbers dropped from over 30 per cent to just 20.7 per cent on election day, I can tell you that I had everything to win and nothing to lose. Like our Prime Minister, John Key, I had stood by challenging a sitting National MP. It was not easy. It was difficult. But it was also rewarding to come through, like the PM, and take two seats even though the party was doomed to the worst defeat it ever had.
Auckland needs a mayor who is able to work with the Government. The mayor must be able to work with the Government to get the assistance with infrastructure that a growing Auckland needs. The mayor should be focused on solutions for infrastructure, not on world leadership in the foreign affairs stakes.
Auckland needs roads first and foremost. The Central Rail Link is a good idea and would be a lot better if it included stations at the University of Auckland and AUT. The fact that it won’t include Auckland City Hospital is a lost opportunity. But, then again, Auckland’s hills and gullies make this extremely expensive. Therein lies one of the other issues that London, for example, doesn’t face. Auckland is not flat. It’s built around 60 volcanic cones after all.
And we Aucklanders love our cars. Many Aucklanders work in south Auckland and live in west Auckland. That’s the nature of Auckland. Buses travel on roads. Rail is useful and needed but it’s not the only solution.
Auckland’s mayoralty needs, guts, determination, intelligence and presence. Who’s up for it?
What Collins says is music to the ears of those desperate for someone to bring a sense of financial responsibility into the city budget.
It will need a strong leader to curb the excesses of transport planners hell bent of dragging every last cent out of every ratepayer outside central Auckland to fulfil the wet dreams of inner city cycle and train enthusiasts.
The only thing we know for sure is that there are only two candidates who have stated they will be running for the Mayor’s job, Stephen Berry and Mark Thomas. I have heard that Len Brown still thinks he can win a third term and is going for it, but it looks increasingly likely that the Labour choice will be Goff. Who knows, both of them might stand leaving the way wide open for a strong right wing candidate. But it is unlikely to be Collins herself. National needs every vote it can get to shore up its slim majority and is unlikely to risk losing Collins with a year to go after next year's local body elections before the General Election.
What Judith Collins has to say is commonsense to most Aucklanders. Auckland needs a strong candidate who can unite opposition to the profligate Labour/Green coalition that has served the city so badly for five long years. It also needs sufficient Councillors to form a majority that will allow a strong, fiscally responsible leader to operate effectively. Will Judith Collins be ‘the one’?