The contest for the Auckland mayoralty is warming up with the former Far North Mayor Wayne Brown likely to toss his hat in the ring. Mark Jennings reports.
Mayoral aspirant Leo Molloy threw a champagne party for his supporters at his viaduct harbour bar on Sunday night. There was plenty of rah-rah and Molloy gave a rousing speech, but as people sipped on their free drinks the news filtered round that Wayne Brown had emerged as a fresh candidate. Those at the event who knew Brown were not dismissing his chances.
This Tuesday, at the Rosebank Business Association, Brown is the guest speaker and will be introduced by former Labour Party president and Mayor of Waitakere, Sir Bob Harvey.
The association’s website says “At this exclusive speaker event, Wayne will share his solutions to fix Auckland’s infrastructure, stop the Council wasting money and solve the Council’s budget woes.”
Brown is expected to announce he is running for mayor at the event.
This will take the number of high profile contenders in the mayoral race to five. Malloy, South Auckland councillor Efeso Collins, Heart of the city CEO, Viv Beck, 2019 third place-getter Craig Lord and now Brown.
Brown, the former Mayor of the Far North is an engineering consultant and developer, currently based in Mangonui.
Molloy’s campaign team claim private polling has the bar owner just ahead of Collins. The arrival of Brown could be problematic. Both men style themselves as “Mr Fixit” types. In Molloy’s case it is self-styling whereas Brown can legitimately point to some runs on the scoreboard.
The Rosebank Business Association gave this description of him in its invitation to Tuesdays event:
“Wayne Brown is an experienced infrastructure engineer and developer who has a track record of proven results. These include turning around a major Transpower failure, bringing Auckland City’s hospital $500m build in on time and budget, and chairing Transpower to bring the 400kva line up through the Waikato to secure power supply to Auckland and Northland.
“When the power of the CBD was famously shut down for six weeks, it was Wayne who was brought in to bring Vector back to reliability and profit, which he did.”
Brown is likely to focus on a hot button topic for Aucklanders – the port. He has been an advocate of moving it to Whangarei. In an opinion for the Stuff website, last year, he slammed the port’s performance.
“POAL embarked on a $400m+ automation project apparently justified by a reduction of around 40 staff who they have subsequently had to re-employ from overseas, hence rendering the whole automation project a waste of money. Luckily for them, the mayor [Phil Goff] – who, in theory, owns the port – still thinks having a port that pays no rates or dividends is good use of $6 billion of land, thereby committing every Auckland ratepayer to a $400 subsidy of the port. Madness.”
Molloy also wants to see changes at the port. In his blueprint for the city released yesterday Malloy said he would, “explore a reduction in the footprint of the Ports by at least 65 percent, and put a proposal to Aucklanders over whether the land could be used for a stadium, cultural centre and community harbour access.”
In a fired-up speech at his Headquarters bar, Molloy promised he would home-in on law and order issues.
“It is no longer possible to wander around the streets of Auckland at night and feel safe.”
As mayor, he would push for more police in the central city.
“It is the shop window of New Zealand but it looks like a cesspit. If you want to see the harsh reality – go look at Fort Street.”
Molloy made no mention of his earlier plan to hose down the homeless who frequent Fort Street with freezing cold water.
When the noise level of the chattering crowd rose, Molloy showed the assertive side of his personality that he is known for.
“This is my show not yours – shut up!” The supporters fell silent as Molloy went on to attack another favourite target, Auckland Transport (AT).
AT was so bad according to Molloy, that he would have to chair it himself.
His transport policies include: Scrapping the Auckland fuel tax, a trial of free public transport for a year and scrapping what he claimed was the $29 billion light rail project in favour of a second harbour crossing.
Auckland motorists, he said, had been let down by the elitist transport policies of the extreme left.
Molloy who turned 66 on Sunday swore he still had the energy to devote the next nine years of his life to being mayor. John Logan Campbell, he said, had been Mayor of Auckland at the age of 84 (in 1901).
With Brown entering the race, Molloy might be tempted to step up his campaigning in South Auckland where he has connections and already enjoys a degree of support.
Dave Letele (a.k.a the Brown Buttabean) former boxer, South Auckland community worker and now a MediaWorks radio host took the microphone to praise Molloy for his generosity in providing food for needy South Aucklanders.
Molloy himself pointed out that All Black great Keven Mealamu, was among the supporters present at the function.
Mealamu runs a gym in South Auckland and was elected to the Papakura Local Board in 2019.
Efeso Collins, has represented Manukau on the Council since 2016 and has been endorsed by Labour. South Auckland is his power base but sources close to Labour say he lacks the funds to run a campaign like Molloy, Brown or Beck who is supported by National Party aligned Communities and Residents group, and was recently endorsed by former National MP Simon Bridges.