Last October Bill Ralston indicated he was standing for Councillor in the Waitemanta and Gulf ward of Auckland Council. Now he has made his candidacy official. Sitting Councillor for the ward, Mike Lee, has yet to announce if he will stand again but if he does he remains tainted by his close links to Len Brown and his support for 50% rates hikes for most ratepayers since the Supercity was formed five years ago.
Journalist, broadcaster and media personality Bill Ralston has today branched into politics with a campaign launch for a seat on Auckland Council.
The former political correspondent is standing for the Waitemata and Gulf seat held by the left-leaning Mike Lee, who has yet to announce if he will seek a third term on Auckland Council at October's local body elections.
Mr Ralston is standing as an independent, but has close links to the National Party and a new ticket, Auckland Future, trying to win a right-leaning majority on council.
"We've got to the point where the people of Auckland just can't trust this council any more," Mr Ralston said at his campaign launch in Ponsonby this evening.
He said the city has been hamstrung by a lack of true leadership, described the council as "dysfunctional", called the recent debacle over the Unitary Plan a "fiasco" and criticised a high rates rise and "whopping" debt of $7.2 billion.
Among Mr Ralston's ideas are to merge the back office functions of the council and its council-controlled organisations (CCOs) into one unit -- "central government is doing exactly that with its ministries and it's paying off" -- a zero based restructuring of council staff and salaries, and being open to selling down shares in Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland.
Ports of Auckland land should remain publicly owned, he said, but 49 per cent of the operating business could be sold.
"This city needs three things from its next council. Accountability to the people, tight control over council finances and clear thinking," he said.
Ralston has a high profile as a likeable TV and radio personality. Although he lacks Council experience this might well be seen as a good thing by the electorate. Those with experience are easily captured by the bureaucracy. What the bureaucrats find difficult to handle are newcomers who bring in their own ideas to the table backed by a strong team outside their influence.
Lee realises he faces tougher opposition for his job than in the past six years, especially from ratepayers. The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance (ARA) has promised to target him for being one of the ‘Terrible Ten’ Councillors who voted for last year's unjustifiable 9.9% rates hike. The ARA is committed to reminding every ratepayer in the ‘Terrible Ten’ wards that their Councillor was one of those who sold them down the river.
Lee has, until recently, been an unwavering supporter of Brown and has been right royally rewarded, but in the last analysis Mike is for Mike. Sensing he’s been backing the wrong side, he jumped ship and joined the populist cause of opposing the ‘out of scope’ last minute changes to the Auckland Plan in the hope of playing the ‘people’s champion’ card.
It might be too little, too late to save him.This time the electorate will be reminded of his record of supporting spending like there was no tomorrow at ratepayers’ expense. This should assist Ralston’s bid for the ward should Mike Lee decide to stand.
The current Councillor for Waitemata poured fire and brimstone on the Mayor and council over the ten per cent increase – and then promptly voted for it. Tricky, cynical footwork that I hope the voters of Waitemata and Gulf will remember.
He’s against intensification at the moment, because he can smell the political wind, but what’s the betting he’ll flip flop on that, too. There’ll be more tricky footwork from him. He is very adept at appearing to oppose the Mayor and majority on council and then you find he’s voted for virtually everything that Len Brown and his mob wants......
The current incumbent of Waitemata and Gulf Ward says (the computer system blowout) is a scandal. He’s right. It is a scandal – a scandal that he and the others on council cannot control their own council officers in this billion dollar bungle. Where is their oversight? Where is their management of those officers? Who is holding them to account?
The current councillor for Waitemata says you can’t sell (airport) shares because it brings in more than forty million dollars a year for the city in dividends.
Yet he’d be quite happy to borrow one point three billion dollars to build the Central Rail Link. The annual interest you would pay on that one point three billion dollar loan is a hell of a lot more than forty million dollars a year the airport investment earns. At five per cent interest it will cost you $65 million dollars a year to retain the $40 million a year. He doesn’t mind because he knows he can tap into your wallets to pay the interest.