11 Nov 2015

Super city seeks supremo

1:12 pm on 11 November 2015

What is this changing of the super city guard of which you speak?

Auckland will soon have its second super city mayor, following Len Brown's announcement that he will not seek re-election.

How soon?

Not that soon. The local body elections aren't until October next year.

Seems early to be banging on about it.

That's true, but it is - some reckon - the second biggest job in New Zealand politics.

After the All Black captain?

After the Prime Minister.

Why is Brown not standing?

He's had a term as Manukau mayor, and is in the final year of his second term as the super city's first mayor.


And he's been described by various meanies in the media as "toast", a "lame duck", a "running gag" and a "dead man walking".

Is it because he's been tainted by the extra-marital affair and the subsequent inquiry?

"That's a factor, and there are a number of other factors," said Brown.

Would the other factors include veteran centre-left Mt Roskill MP Phil Goff eyeing up the chains?

"To Phil and anyone else who wants to run, I offer them nothing but the very best of luck," said Brown.

Is that a yes?

Pretty much. Goff's challenge has been a long time coming. Morning Report heart-throb Guyon Espiner has described Goff's pre-campaign campaign as "the longest striptease in political history".

Could we have a picture of that, perhaps?

Is Goff a definite starter?

All but. Just about every commentator has said the former Labour leader is a shoo-in and a good chunk of Brown's core team have defected to Goff's campaign. The launch is 22 November.

OK, but, you know. He still might not stand.

What will Brown's legacy be?

His supporters will point to success in amalgamation of eight councils and a host of different rates systems, agreement on the 30-year unitary plan, and a transport blueprint that includes, most pressingly, the City Rail Link. Also, he broke out into song a lot.

The CRL! Len's little train set! Controversial.

Not especially. Pretty much everyone on the council supports it, as does central government. The only major sticking points are when to start and how to raise the funds to pay for it.

What do Brown's detractors point to?

An average rates rise of almost 10 percent earlier this year attracted criticism. His effusive style grated with some, especially following the affair revelations. He's seen as having lost clout in dealings with the Beehive. And there's the singing thing.



Yawn! This is only of interest to Aucklanders. No one else could give a fig.

Maybe, but Auckland's influence, for better or worse, is undeniable.

They do dress funny.

They do. But more to the point, the Auckland super city is home to more than 1.5 million, a third of the NZ population, and it's rapidly growing. The Auckland economy accounts for more than 35 percent of GDP.

Finance minister Bill English last month reiterated that if the Auckland housing market continued to rise at 20 percent or more a year, it would provide a serious risk to the national economy.

John Key must hate the idea of Goff becoming mayor.

Hardly. The PM calls him a "passionate Aucklander", saying he'd be happy to work with him.

Is there a challenge from the right?

There's the Citizens and Ratepayers group.

Aren't they now called the Communities and Residents group?

If you say so. In any case, critics and reporters note they're chaotic and restive, chippy and rancorous.

Sounds like something crisp and restorative is required.

Funny you should say that. A new group, Auckland Future, has emerged, with support from the National Party, driven by figures including Michelle Boag, Peter Goodfellow and Nikki Kaye.

Are there any plausible centre-right candidates in play?

Boag backs Theresa Gattung, the former Telecom CEO. Others that have been mentioned include Mark Thomas, most famous for his effort in the incredible Wellington Central race in the 1996 general election, as immortalised in the brilliant film Campaign which you should go and watch immediately.

What was the question again?

Anyone else on the right?

Sure. John Banks, Maurice Williamson, Michael Barnett, Colin Craig.

Hasn't Colin Craig ruled himself out?

Colin Craig has. But Colin Craig takes many forms, so maybe one of him might yet stand.

What challenges await the next mayor?

Getting the dosh together for transport. Dealing with the Port of Auckland. Housing, housing, housing. And the rest.

Sprawl it all into 25 words.

Aucklanders will soon farewell their amiable middle-aged centre-left white bloke mayor, and most probably they'll replace him with an amiable middle-aged centre-left white bloke mayor.

And condense to five.

Sorry about the striptease thing.

Toby Toby stamp

* This column is part of a weekly series, to be published every Wednesday, by graphic artist Toby Morris and journalist Toby Manhire.