Matt is putting together a fairly comprehensive post which reviews the big transport stories of 2012, so I won’t go there for now. Instead I’m looking forward to what might be the big issues of 2013 and obviously a really big event will be the next Auckland Council elections, which take place in October/November next year. The Council elections are really the next big hurdle for the City Rail Link project to get past, as if there’s a change in central government in 2014 (something that looks increasingly likely) the current difficulties from Wellington should disappear in terms of the project happening. It would be a horrible irony if a change in Mayor and Council meant that Auckland “no longer wanted” the project.

There are two key aspects of next year’s Council election: who wins the mayoralty and what changes to the composition of the Council as a whole there are. I’ll get back to the mayoralty in a minute, but the composition of the Council is perhaps even more important as at the end of the day it’s a Council vote on Long Term Plans and Annual Plans which will decide whether sufficient money is set aside for the CRL and other key transport projects. At the moment it seems the Council is split into roughly three camps: those firmly “centre left”, those firmly “centre right” and those who seem to end up following whatever the Mayor’s lead on issues turns out to be. Len Brown has been fairly clever to get people like Penny Webster into “his camp”, which means that most critical votes on whether the mayor’s proposals are supported or not seem to pass.

In terms of support for key projects like the CRL, I think there would need to be a pretty massive change in the Council’s make up for those opposing the project to outnumber those in support. Key councillors like Christine Fletcher and Penny Webster have repeated that they support CRL on many occasions, while those who oppose the project like Dick Quax and George Wood are a very small minority. It’s hard to know what will happen in terms of which Councillors are most likely to be reelected, but I feel there will be interesting battles in the Albany Ward (current councillors Michael Goudie & Wayne Walker), in the North Shore Ward (current councillors Ann Hartley and George Wood) and in the Albert-Eden-Roskill Ward (current councillors Cathy Casey and Christine Fletcher). Even if there is change in those key wards (note the key importance of the North Shore?), I sense that support for the CRL is probably safe within the council as a whole.

The question of whether Len Brown will be reelected or not is an interesting one, particularly because at the moment we have no idea who will run against him. It is surprising that Cameron Brewer, Christine Fletcher or George Wood haven’t stuck their hands up yet, which suggests that internally each of them may perhaps be struggling for the necessary level of support to go for the job. Perhaps someone (celebrity non-politicians?) might be lured into challenging Len Brown but once again you would have thought that they’d at least be making noises about the idea already.

Getting reelected as Mayor will be a tough job, even though I think Len Brown is a great mayor for Auckland due to his relentless optimism and the vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city that he has promoted. Under Auckland’s local government system the rates increases (even though they’re much less than the old councils planned) seem to be perceived as being owned by the mayor rather than the Council as a whole. And bringing together all the rates systems has inevitably created a number of losers, who unsurprisingly have been very vocal.

So a few questions to finish:

  • Who do you think will run against Len Brown and why?
  • Do you think Len Brown will be reelected as Mayor?
  • What changes to the Council seem likely?
  • What are the implications of all this in terms of future support for projects like the City Rail Link?

I suppose on that last note, the strong support for CRL coming from the Auckland business establishment in recent releases by Michael Barnett and Kim Campbell suggest that it may be difficult for a mayoral candidate to oppose CRL.

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  1. To answer your questions:
    -I think who ever is going to stand against Len is going to have to make their mind up quickly as they will need a lot of time to build up their team and strategy. I found it really interesting when the government put out its press release rejecting the CCFAS at the same time Cameron Brewer put out his own press release about it which showed that the government had obviously been talking to him and he knew what they were going to say.
    -At this stage, yes I think he will get re elected simply because there is no one seriously standing against him.
    -I think we will see a few new faces. We know Des Morrison is retiring and I have heard rumours that Sandra Coney might do so as well. There is also bound to be a couple of upsets in other wards.
    -The biggest risk is we get some people in who say they support the CRL but want to delay it, probably doing it sneakily by saying they want to review things “to make sure it is the best option”.

  2. 1)Tim Shadbolt. Has “fixed” Invercargill and will move onto the next project, fixing Auckland….(joke-I hope!). Colin Craig maybe.
    2)Yes,unless National encourage a celebrity / token ex MP candidate to stand.
    3) North Auckland being more divisive, candidates there campaigning on that as a platform.
    4) Further delays, more reports. Perhaps NZTA/central govt proposing funding for smaller CRL alternatives such as airport rail. Quay St light rail has already been pushed back beyond 2014 for example and transport delays seem an easy way to keep rates down in short term.
    5) Auckland Transport Blog renamed NZ Transport Blog

  3. Answering the bullet points:

    Who do you think will run against Len Brown and why? Of seriousness and after much discussion – no one serious. Too late now and unless you have a cool $650,000 minimum to spend it could be a case of wait until 2016 folks.

    Do you think Len Brown will be reelected as Mayor? Yes – pure and simple. The only thing that can stop him (and forgive me for saying so) is his health

    What changes to the Council seem likely? As I have told C&R and just told them again in a recap posting I drew up, the Centre Right need a full six swing seat to the right to even have a sniff at controlling Council. Now as Mr Anderson said: “At the moment it seems the Council is split into roughly three camps: those firmly “centre left”, those firmly “centre right” and those who seem to end up following whatever the Mayor’s lead on issues turns out to be. Len Brown has been fairly clever to get people like Penny Webster into “his camp”, which means that most critical votes on whether the mayor’s proposals are supported or not seem to pass.” That means the Centre Right are going to have to be more unified if they want that swing and regain control of council. After C&R Councillor Raffles voted along with the super majority (actually I think it went absolute) for the next Annual Plan – it shows the work the Centre Right need to do first… If Councillors Wood and Quax continue to defy (although I have seen them tone down of recent (after a conversation at the Transport Committee of recent)) their C&R leaders (and dont give me this broad church crap as I see that is working well for Labour as of current) C&R could even lose more seats (or even the independents) which would mean simply OUCH for the next six years! As for new blood coming in – ummmmm working on it!

    What are the implications of all this in terms of future support for projects like the City Rail Link? None as in we get status quo unless Central Government Changes, Brownlee drops dead, English has a flight of fancy or new blood makes at least 33% of the intake of the next Council. Although with a bit of prodding – nah not going to reveal that one 😉

    So that is where we are. Oh and I already see people going NOT LEN BROWN. Bugger – they might want to tell the opposition to move then…

    1. But given that Brewer is clearly in the Nats’ back pocket – as Matt L says, Brownlee’s office is clearly feeding him anti-CRL talking points – it is obvious that Joyce and the other Nat strategists see him as their preferred candidate for 2013 and will give him the money he needs. They’ve lost patience with the C&R mob who are either too moderate (Fletcher) or too obviously crazy (Quax, Wood).

      1. If the National Strategists are going to pour money down Brewer and Brewer becomes a puppet then National are going to repeat the same mistakes as they did with Banks in 2010. Mistakes to such an extent even Cameron Slater would take the strategists and Brewer to shreds on his blogs for their utter stupidity.

        Fletcher would of been their best chance – but we seriously need new blood – and Brewer is not it. Len can wave him off already and if Councillor Lee rallied the troops well it would make one interesting election.

        And to be blunt and frank (and I await a certain defriend on Facebook for this) as a Nat member, I dont want Brewer as my mayor and he would not get my vote – it would go straight back to Len unless there was a very strong Centre-Independent candidate which there is currently not.

        2013 will see if C&R makes it or if it is better to wind it up and start again – they just dont seem to have the reach beyond the old Auckland City.

        Interesting times ahead

  4. it has to be recogniased that Len Brown has been a great mayor for the establishment of an amalgamated Auckland

    it also has to be recognised that John Banks would have been an unmitigated disaster

    I can’t see anyone with the skills and mana to be a credible challenger to Len and I really do think he deserves a second term

  5. I am sick of Len Brown pretending that he is in charge of the welfare/healthcare/economy/feel good/culture of Auckland. I feel like the position has gone to his head and he has not stuck to his knitting. The 2002 LGA need to be repealed. All his visionary nonsense makes my blood boil. The Auckland Plan was an absolute joke of a document.

    I think Brewer stands a good chance. A lot of people really didn’t/don’t like John Banks because of many aspects of his record as both an MP/Minister and Mayor. Brewer will be a fresh face and wont carry all that baggage that weighed down Banks.

    1. You do realise that the legislation that created the super city required that the mayor and council develop the Auckland Plan as a 30 year visionary document. You can’t slam Len for that. You also realise that the Auckland Plan was agreed to by a majority of councillors and had pretty strong support amongst the community.

      1. I dont think the legislation asked them to comment on health/education/culture/housing ownership structures… We already pay for ministries to deal with these things, we dont need the council duplicating efforts.

        1. Every world class city in the world incorporates these other aspects in their agendas. Auckland should also with collaboration with the government on some of these functions.

      2. Interestingly the legislation required a plan that promoted Auckland’s economic, environmental, social and cultural wellbeing. Which does include all those matters.

        1. Well I guess I stand corrected. Fairly hypocritical of central government to be so shocked when the council started talking about those things then.

          Now, time to find something else to complain about Brown about 🙂

    2. Totally agree swan. How dare Len Brown want to make Auckland a better and more liveable city. He should stick to being visionless and betrothed to his funders like the National Party.

      1. Ah yes that great visionatry John Banks was the one we needed. I remember well the two respective campaign slogans … Brown: “Creating the world’s most liveable city”; Banks: “Keeping Rates Down”.

        Brewer has all the vision of a hayseed from Hawera. Wait … he IS from Hawera.

  6. Will Doug McKay stay on as Mayor of Auckland?


    Will there be left field challengers?

    Depends on the Draft Unitary Plan


    Once Brownlee has gone…

    Kim Dotcom could put up a credible challenge if he didn’t mind the pay drop!

      1. Yessir.

        Chief Exec appointed by R Hyde, re appointed by. L Brown.

        Rumoured to be the actual mayor.

        Not good at keeping spending down though…

        1. Doug Mckay is leaving after his term ends with the process to replace him about to get under way. I think he did a good job IMO

  7. Swan, you’ll be happy to know that the Local Government Act Amendment Bill (2012) will mean that councils are entitled to pay attention to roads and sewage, and very little else.

    For the rest of us, this ideological straightjacket with which Wellington narrows the scope of council activity, is a threat to our wellbeing. It basically forces councils to adhere to a particular style of government with limited consideration of any goods (public or private) other than ‘core infrastructure’, so that rates can be lowered and a centre-right management style followed. It also constrains the nature of democracy, by ruling a great number of local issues outside the scope of local government. Essentially, we lose the forums in which we shape our communities. This bill is slipping through quietly due to the nature of New Zealand’s political and media processes.

    1. What I find undemocratic is a mayor who promises something and intends it be funded not by his own electorate, but by someone elses.

      We have a sovereign central government that delegates or devolves power to councils (in a nation of only 4.5 million) . I see little value in saying councils can do what they want, particularly where it duplicates effort or involves lobbying back to central government.

      1. I think there’s a really interesting conversation to be had about the level of devolution to local government in NZ. By international comparison we are remarkably centralised, perhaps because of our relatively small population. Perhaps the debate is not so much about local government duplicating things that central government does, but the potential for local government to do that thing better than central govt.

        Obviously this requires local government to have a wider variety of revenue raising options, like a local GST. But there is a good case in my opinion for local government rather than central government to be doing social housing – particularly in Auckland where the council has the scale to do it and is in charge of land use planning so could actually really approach housing in an integrated way.

    2. And yet the legislation which created Auckland Council continues to require the preparation of a spatial plan to promote the “four wellbeings”. I remember Nikki Kaye being so pleased that she got the purpose of the spatial plan changed to ensure it referred to all the wellbeings.

  8. sadly on the right, there appear to be has-beens and lightweights and i put cameron brewer in the latter category, i’d be happy for him to stand with another rightish candidate to split the vote

  9. No-one from the Left will stand against Len, as he is supported by the Labour Party. Personally though, I would prefer Mike Lee as he really is a Leftie. Cameron Brewer is positioning himself as a right-wing candidate. John Walker, from Manurewa, is a total joke and completely invisible. Only got elected because of name recognition.

  10. C&R would be foolish to put forward Brewer as their candidate. He has just dug himself a hole of idiocy over the last few years I can’t see him getting out off. Fletcher is the only credible candidate as the current C&R leader.

    Brown has actually surprised me and done a great job in this term which has been a very difficult term. He has been open to all sides which I think is ideal to move the city forward.

  11. IMHO I would think Cameron Brewer will run against Brown. I think he’s been positioning himself for a tilt this entire council term. He is operating like the opposition party and, using his experience in PR for the National party, he has made sure to establish media links through the Herald and a professional website to make sure his criticisms of Brown are clearly heard by the public.

    As we know, progress of the CRL needs Brown to win and I will be very keen to be involved in any campaign activities required to make sure he gets back in.

    I do hope Councillers Fletcher and Lee run again and get back in, otherwise, I don’t know enough about the policies or opinions of prospective candidates yet but will obviously hope the voting makeup remains the same.

    1. Nice? In what way?
      Maybe nice if you like pushing water uphill with a rake, but not if you value progress on the CRL and other vital PT projects…

    2. What a dreamer supporting Labour for local government and National for central government. I will be working for two Labour victories.

      1. I’ll be happy to see a non-radical leader in Auckland (left or right) so Len Brown or Cnr Fletcher are the only 2 choices I can think of and the only way I can see NZ cities and towns getting real PT and active transport infrastructure prioritised over motorways (if that’s what the locals want that is :-)) would be with a Labour / Green coalition.

  12. From a left-wing perspective, I think it would be ideal if Cameron Brewer and Christine Fletcher ran against each other for Mayor and split the conservative vote. How likely that is to happen I can’t say. Probably quite unlikely as it would be fairly obvious to both of them that it’s a bad idea. If we were really lucky Colin Craig would stand again and totally splinter the right/anti-rail vote on North Shore.

    I think Len Brown will be re-elected IF he doesn’t have a strong challenger, IF he manages to get a reasonably high turn out (which will be harder this time around since the elections will probably get less publicity than in 2010 as they had the attraction of novelty then) and IF nothing terrible happens to him/around him over the next 12 months (“events, my dear boy, events”).

    I think there’s a good chance we will see a slightly more right-wing council elected (right is not a particularly meaningful term at local government level, but basically I mean a less pro-environment, less pro-PT, less pro community development council) as I think that represents more accurately Auckland’s voting preferences. The right was just quite disorganized last time around at a council level, which is why they got relatively few seats.

    I am quite concerned that a few of the greenest councillors will not be re-elected, particularly Wayne Walker who only got in last time by the skin of his teeth. Richard Northey or Sandra Coney may choose not to stand again as both are heading towards retirement age (I think) which would also tip the balance rightwards.

  13. much as I like George Wood as a person and with regard to his positive mayoral terms on the Shore, I think that he is definitely past his best by date,

    my test of politicians as a council officer was “can I have a good discussion about the issues, both be heard and points of view considered even if we agree to diagree at the end?” Somewhat surprisingly Andrew Williams passed the test, as does Chris Darby, who has been a good local board chair and I feel would make an excellent contribution on the council

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