Who will Auckland's new mayor Wayne Brown turn out to be?

4:30 pm on 18 October 2022

By Todd Niall of Stuff

Mayoral candidate Wayne Brown says having a dedicated voting day, along with an online voting option, could help increase voter turnout in Auckland.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has chaired large organisations in the past, but the dynamics of sitting in a complex and finely balanced political structure like Auckland Council, is different. Photo: David White / STUFF

Analysis - Wayne Brown has mostly kept his head down following his resounding election as Auckland Council's third mayor, making his last media comment on Monday following the election, en route to his level 27 office.

He's got a lot to do. After spending six months out in the public glare making promises about what he'd "fix" and what needs to change, he has to figure out how to deliver.

Running a hugely effective and targeted election campaign is a tightly controlled exercise and surprisingly simple, once the research was done on who to target, and what they wanted to hear.

Delivering is something else. There are a lot more moving parts, councillors, officials, all of whom have passions about what they want to achieve for Auckland.

The mayor can set a direction, priorities and be the loudest voice in the city, but change requires a majority on council.

Brown's almost daily calls in written statements for directors of council-controlled agencies to quit show the limits of his powers.

While Auckland Transport's chair chose to go, the rest are continuing, pending a more considered council decision on whether change is required.

Harnessing the support and buy-in of others is crucial. It will involve making compromises and sorting the easily and quickly doable from the short-term undoable.

Brown has had a huge opportunity during his first 10 days of one-on-one chats with each councillor, and the chair and deputy of the Independent Māori Statutory Board (IMSB) whose members sit and vote on council committees.

Among them are highly competent, committed people who have led and supported major change in Auckland - it will be a rare chance for Brown to learn before the theatrics of politics ramp up.

While he has chaired large organisations in the past, the dynamics of sitting in a complex and finely balanced political structure like Auckland Council, with two tiers of politicians and four agencies, is different.

At times on the campaign Brown seemed to have a poor grasp on how the council worked, and what levers he could pull, and his intensive first week may have involved learning some realities.

The news that his campaign team in its final weeks hired top Auckland law firm Meredith Connell to provide it with legal advice, and that a partner of the firm is still advising, suggests Brown must now have a clearer idea of where the limits are.

On the hustings, Brown could stick to his message, fire off acidic barbs and one-liners, describing some (hopefully past) elected members he worked with as people who "ate the sausage rolls and flicked past the pages of numbers".

That acerbic Wayne Brown will not be viable over a three-year term. He will need to manage 20 councillors, divided fairly evenly between those who supported and opposed the direction of the council up to now.

At the same time, he was elected with a sizeable margin on a message of change and fixing, and - low turn-out or not - has a mandate to pursue that agenda.

It is though, a limited mayoral mandate, not mandate to rule alone.

We know the Wayne Brown of the campaign trail, where the only consequence of what he said, was the level of voter support he would garner. Will Wayne Brown the mayor be different?

*Todd Niall is the senior Auckland affairs reporter for Stuff.

*This article originally appeared on Stuff.

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