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Wayne Brown wins chance to ‘fix’ Auckland

Policy

Anti-establishment candidate Wayne Brown claims victory for Auckland mayor, ending centre-left dominance over super city leadership

Wayne Brown has overtaken incumbent Councilor Efeso Collins to seize the chains of Auckland mayors and try to cut council organisation, reduce debt and limit works projects causing traffic jams, delays and overruns of costs.

The 76-year-old former Far North District mayor leads the progress results with 144,619 votes, ahead of his closest challenger Collins of 54,808. Around 85-90% of the votes were counted since voting closed at noon today in a historically low turnout.

Only 31.1% of those eligible voted, compared to 35.3 and 38.5% in the two previous elections. Efeso Collins’ political base in South Auckland recorded the lowest turnout, ranging from 19.6% in part of Otara, with Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Mangere just above the mark. 20%, reaching 23.5% in Papakura.

Brown said Auckland voters had “sent the clearest possible message to Auckland Council and Central Government in Wellington”, and promised they would be heard.

“At over 300 campaign events over the past six months, the people of Auckland have made it clear to me and my fellow candidate Efeso Collins that you love our city, but know that much of it is broken. It is now up to me, the new governing body and local councils to act on our mandate, to fix what is broken and bring about the change you demand.”

Brown said the number one issue was transportation, followed closely by crime, unfinished projects and endless red cones, rising costs and municipal waste.

“There is a mandate for change and my job as mayor is to lead it.”

At the start of the campaign, he told an audience, “I’m probably planning to make more changes than you expect.”

On early accounts, he could have a more weighted council towards the centre-right, with a key race in the Eden-Albert-Puketāpapa ward to replace incumbent centre-left councilor Cathy Casey, continuing the results of progress towards the candidate of Communities and Residents Will McKenzie by 286 votes over City Vision’s prominent candidate Julie Fairey.

And in the Waitematā district, former councilor Mike Lee (who was backed by C&R) is ahead of fellow City Vision leader and outgoing councilor Pippa Coom by 1,250 votes.

A hotly contested battle in the Whau ward saw C&R Councilor Tracy Mulholland retain Labour’s Kerrin Leoni by 150 votes – which would reinforce a more centre-right undertone to the new council.

In the west, however, a Westside candidate, Ken Turner, is leading incumbent councilor Linda Cooper, a vote the center-right would have hoped would count for a majority on a Brown-led council.

Former national cabinet minister Maurice Williamson won a council seat in Howick, beating incumbent Paul Young.

On the results of the progress, there are said to be around 12 councilors out of the 20 who could be considered centre-right, a leaning perhaps their way – Turner who opposes Three Waters and has pledged to fight the “extravagant costs” of the council – and seven for the centre-left. This mix would be encouraging for Brown and his team.

Efeso Collins offered his congratulations on Twitter, wishing Brown “every success in this blessed role as Mayor of Auckland”.

“You have my full support and thank you for being so respectful and robust during the street campaign. All the best.”

Brown rode through a crowded center-right field to outlast first Leo Molloy, then Viv Beck and Collins in the last two major public opinion polls. In the end, he secured a comfortable victory and will see a mandate for his vision of a smaller board while retaining key services.

He spoke often during the campaign about the council having financial problems, with too much debt and uncosted liabilities such as the potential cost increase of the City Rail Link project.

When he walks into the mayor’s office, the public will expect him to confess to taxpayers the extent of the council’s exposure to the subway project.

Brown was reluctant during the campaign to promise a fixed figure limit on annual rates, saying he wanted to open the council’s books, analyze the figures and then find out what was possible in terms of expenses and revenues.

He opposed existing council plans for extended cycle lanes and the $14 billion central government-funded light rail project from the city center to Māngere via Mount Roskill.

And he wants to force the Ports of Auckland corporation to start paying 6% of the value of the land it uses on the city center waterfront as an annual dividend, a move he says could bring in 400 million dollars per year. This calculation was rejected by his opponents, including Beck and Collins, and questioned by figures in the real estate industry.

Other policies advocated by Brown include:

– sacking directors of “all” boards of council-controlled organisations, starting with Auckland Transport

– abolishing the council development company Eke Panuku, which is upgrading suburban centers such as Northcote, Panmure and Avondale;

– removal of Auckland Unlimited, the council-owned business focused on driving events, tourism and economic development

– reduce the amount spent per meter on cycle paths, advance regional busways in the west and east

– sit with all advisors one-on-one and try to convince them to focus on “the numbers” in budgets before decisions are made

– use the 2023 election year for central government to pressure ministers and others to implement measures to reduce crime and fund projects favored by Auckland

Brown served two terms as mayor of Far North, but was ousted by former National MP John Carter in 2013 after a critical auditor general’s report on Brown’s mismanagement of his private and council roles.

Previously, he was Chairman of Vector, Auckland District Health Board and Transpower as these organizations reformed and managed major infrastructure projects.

Other progress results show Tim Shadbolt losing heavily at Invercargill, with former deputy mayor Nobby Clark winning the top job at Invercargill, broadcaster Marcus Lush conceding in a tweet.

The results also show Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson winning his fourth term, while Neil Brown was re-elected mayor of Ashburton by a large margin. Nigel Bowen appears to be re-elected mayor of Timaru.