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Mayoral race: Enough, already!

Jan 19, 2016 Politics

The main mayoral candidates have a lot of homework to do to be credible.

This article was first published in the January 2016 issue of Metro. Photo: Getty Images.


The good news is we have, in fact, a traditional Labour vs National race for the Auckland mayoralty.

Typically, though, the chosen candidates, Phil Goff and Victoria Crone, are playing silly buggers, insisting they are independents. Goff, the lifelong Labour man, has chosen National Party blue for his campaign material. Crone, the highly successful businesswoman, has opted for a garish orange, and spoke at the Labour Party conference just a month before announcing her mayoral run.

Goff is careful to emphasise the importance of business to Auckland and uses the language of economics when talking housing. Crone wants to hear from people “of all walks of life, young, old, families, different cultures, businesses, retired — you get the drift”.

But make no mistake: Goff’s decision to run followed intense manoeuvring by Auckland’s Labour Party power brokers. Len Brown’s old campaign team, including Labour’s most charmingly sinister political operators, moved seamlessly in behind Goff. They first convinced the mayor he must retire and then gently disabused his deputy, Penny Hulse, of any notion she might be the chosen one. The Goff campaign is largely being run out of Brown’s ratepayer-funded mayoral office. Also deeply involved is David Lewis, the former Helen Clark spin doctor who helped cover up the Canterbury speeding affair.

On the blue (or orange?) side of politics, two of John Key’s ministers, Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith, were tasked with finding a candidate. Former National Party president Michelle Boag and party pollster David Farrar, a lifelong Wellingtonian, have promoted Crone’s “back story”. Boag was active in briefing the media ahead of Crone’s launch.

Another former National Party president, Sue Wood, and North Shore party activist Joe Davis have been leading efforts to establish the new Auckland Future brand, which Crone’s backers hope will deliver her a centre-right majority on the council to work with. If that project is to succeed, careful management is needed of so-called “independent” candidates such as Bill Ralston, in reality the National Party’s media trainer, and the pre-existing Communities & Residents (C&R). Neither the red-blue nor blue-orange side of politics can afford to split the vote in what are old-fashioned first-past-the-post elections.

There’s also the question of what to do about Mark Thomas, the Orakei Local Board member and former National Party candidate, who sought first-mover advantage by announcing his mayoral candidacy well ahead of Crone. They’re ambitious on the Orakei Local Board: its chair, Desley Simpson, wife of current National Party president Peter Goodfellow, also wants to stand for the council and eventually for mayor. Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan has waxed lyrical about Simpson’s “dazzling personality”.

Goff’s big opening speech was entirely platitudinous, carefully written to commit him to nothing.

So much for the political jockeying: what about the substance? So far there’s none. Goff’s big opening speech was entirely platitudinous, carefully written to commit him to nothing. He has a vision, he says, of Auckland “unleashing itself as a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial city”. Terrific.

There was the usual Labour Party tribute to “Mayor Robbie” (note to voters under 60: Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, born 1901, first elected mayor 1959, died 1989). We should have more “high-tech, high-paid jobs” and more places like the Media Design School. The urban environment must match the quality of the natural environment. We should be inclusive. We must finish the motorways, build light rail and have more buses. We must pay for this, but not all out of rates. Nor must “strategic assets” be sold. Goff seems to support the port staying where it is.

Crone started more promisingly, at least before announcing. There was talk of driverless buses and cars and she appeared willing to move the port’s container and used-cars operations out of the CBD. By launch day, that was mostly replaced by Goff-style platitudes.

Funding infrastructure “is a major problem for our city to solve”, her website tells us. Goodo. Auckland must have “the thinking, policies and partnerships” to ensure young people have affordable homes. She’s worried about “old-world thinking” in transport and says “we need to make sure Auckland has the jobs, skills and conversations needed to transition to future jobs as automation and machines continue to automate our current jobs”.

She believes “anything is possible” and leads “with this belief in all aspects of my life”. It’s possible to achieve the seemingly impossible, she says, “by focusing on people, bringing energy and passion and deeply caring and supporting”. She says she loves people and wants to talk to them, starting with “our youth”. She says she’s good at what she does.

It would be uncharitable at this stage to say both main candidates have so far just patronised us with utter crap. Far kinder to say they have a lot of work to do over the summer to become credible.


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