Once upon a time, manifestos were a key feature of the election period, arriving in letterboxes in solid printed form, and full of details of what each party proposed to do and why. These days, we get a little pledge card with a few bullet points on it.

So it’s interesting to see the word “manifesto” pop back up, in the form of a challenge to the next government, issued on behalf of Auckland by Mayor Wayne Brown, who continues to continues to surprise with some urban transport stances.

On Sunday, the Mayor appeared on NZQ+A to talk about the soon-to-be-published “Auckland Manifesto”, developed with councillors  – and why he’s calling on central government to take the country’s biggest city more seriously.

There’s a short written overview here, and the interview itself is about ten minutes long – we’ve pulled out the key points from the Q+A interview below.

Update Tuesday 19 September: the Manifesto for Auckland is now online, and has been covered by Stuff, the NZ Herald, and RNZ.

‘Auckland is special’

The opening question posed by Jack Tame is: “Why should Auckland should get special treatment?” This is the Mayor’s response:

It’s not special treatment – Auckland is special. Auckland Council is special. It was set up to be special.

Nowhere in Australia or New Zealand is any council looking after a third of the country. I am the representative of a third of New Zealand. We were set up that way, and yet we’re treated as if we’re just Horowhenua Council, wherever that is.

This [city] is a driver of the country. If Auckland does well, the country does well. We’re 40% of the economy, we produce 40% of the tax, and we don’t get our share back, and we don’t have any power for it… we don’t even have the power to set parking fines, let alone bed tax.

Bed tax pays for the big events in [cities like] Sydney and Melbourne. And in fact as councils go, we’re bigger than they are. We also have the biggest rural population as well, in terms of the urban population.

The government do need to give Auckland more decision making powers but at the same time, Auckland hasn’t been perfect. Housing is a prime example where if the government hadn’t forced change, first though requiring the Unitary Plan and then though the more recent housing changes, Auckland would be much worse off as councillors would have further scaled back plans to appease anti-change groups.

‘Devolution’ in order to ‘stop wasting money’

The manifesto calls for a “fundamentally different relationship” between central government and Auckland, which the mayor says is key to delivering his election promise to “stop wasting money”.

We’ve got a government that’s wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on tunnel projects [for] underground metro lines, which are never going to happen, underground things across the harbour which we didn’t want and that aren’t going to happen. Three Waters, hundreds of millions of dollars, we didn’t ask for that, it’s never going to happen.

He wants government to sit down and talk about his “fully integrated transport plan for Auckland which includes freight as well as people.”

If those projects aren’t in that list, then don’t raise them. We’re fed up with Wellington telling us what to do and not providing any money for it.

[The integrated transport plan] will show what, over say the next five or ten years, are the things that we’ll build to get us around better.

He also notes processes are already under way to “make better use of what we’ve got already” like “dynamic lanes on feeder routes’ and connecting bus transponders to traffic lights to speed up buses. “These things are not hugely costly, but they require intelligence and the use of IT.”

Time-of-use pricing

Brown distinguishes this from “congestion charging”, which is about designating an area. He specifically means time-based charges:

We absolutely need time-of-use charging. Because we don’t have overloaded bridges or roads, they’re just overloaded for short periods of the day. So, you make people pay to be there at that time of day.

If you want to be on the motorway between Penrose and Greenlane between half past eight and half past nine, you’re going to pay a bit more for it – and then maybe they won’t. We don’t have a shortage of roads, we just have people using them at the wrong time.

Link to a tweet by ScootFoundation quoting the Mayor's words on time-of-use charging, accompanied by a meme-image of the Mayor with blazing eyes.
Mayoral insight captured in a tweet by @ScootFoundation, 17 September 2023

Show us the [our] money

The Mayor wants to see an annual transfer of GST equivalent to the amount charged on Auckland rates, into the city’s coffers – as recommended by a government-commissioned study, The Future for Local Government. He says this is what they do in Sydney and across Australia and notes Auckland is “more like a regional government rather than a council.”

When we put on a big function for FIFA, and all that money comes in, the GST on that goes to Wellington. We’re already subsidising the rest of the country’s taxes.

Disaster and resilience

The Mayor says the government needs to develop a nationally-funded solution for managed retreat, because “Auckland cannot cover any more buyouts”:

This is a national problem… it happened to happen [this year] on the west coast of Auckland, and in Hawkes Bay, but it could be anywhere, so we have to have a plan. Wellington is supposed to be thinking about national things, and not telling Auckland what some guy down there has dreamed up for us.

Jack Tame: Is Auckland Council competent to handle this?

Wayne Brown: Bigger question, is Wellington sufficiently competent? NO.

Jack Tame: Tell us how you really feel!

Resetting the relationship

So, what leverage does Auckland Council have in resetting this relationship? Brown says that’s built into the origins of Auckland Council:

Why did they set it up to be such a big council in the first place? It was to enable the government to negotiate with a third of New Zealand, in its largest conurbation and gateway city, so we could do sensible things together.

It wasn’t set up so somebody in Wellington could decide to spend $30bn to burrow under the city to go from the airport to town.

If we’re competent to run 1500 buses around the city every day – and they’re definitely doing better now than before I arrived, no question – then we’re the people they should be asking, how else are we going to do this?

Putting consultation in its place

Circling back to his pet topic of connecting buses to traffic lights, dynamic lanes, etc, the Mayor says consultation often gets in the way of progress:

We need to be able to get on with [things like] that, without endless consultation… Chloe Swarbrick spoke against consultation rulings the other day, and I’m right with her.

We’ve got dynamic lanes out at Whangaparaoa, and when they did consultation, people there didn’t want them, but now there’d be hell if you pulled them out, because they work so well. Sometimes you’ve got to be able to get on with things.

The meaning of ‘partnership’

Tame asks a fair question: “Do you think you’d be in a stronger position to advocate for more power and local authority, if you hadn’t left Local Government New Zealand?”

No. We’re not LGNZ. Being in there allows [government] to treat us like Horowhenua or something like that. We’re set up to be different, we were set up to be a partnership.

We had a presentation on these dumb expensive tunnels under the harbour, and people said ‘ah well, we’re a partnership.’

I said, we can’t be in a partnership, [if] we haven’t had any say in this. We’ve had no money in it, we’ve had no input into it, you’ve blown $150m on consultants, without even asking us! And it’s not going to be built, not in my lifetime, and probably not in yours.

Priority number one for the next government?

The top priority, says the Mayor, is for Auckland “to be treated with respect as a major partner for government.” He mentions “city deals” as used in Australia (he credits National for floating this idea, but says he doesn’t like some of their other policies), and reiterates the overarching importance of the Integrated Transport Plan for goods and people:

You’re not going to be able to dream up something we didn’t want, just because you had a trip somewhere overseas and you’ve seen it. If it’s not in [the Integrated Transport Plan], we’re not going to do it.

The manifesto also calls for an end to MDRS and NPS-UD:

Both parties got together and dumped three three-storey houses on every section without even asking us. That’s going to have huge implications on our ability to deliver the infrastructure to support that. But no discussion! …That sort of stuff’s going to stop. Just stop.

The Mayor also says Three Waters should go, because along with MDRS and NPS-UD, it’s failed to answer the first question which is: “What is the problem you’re fixing?… They’re setting up these enormous incredibly costly management entities… for what?”

Last question: how’s he feeling about the election, and does he know who he’s going to vote for?

I’m a swing voter. It’s a bit like arriving late in Te Awamutu and there’s only one food shop open and you’re hungry and there’s only five really unappealing items on the menu, and I’m not sure what to do. I think quite a lot of people will go home hungry, really.

No party is wholly good or wholly bad. There’s bits and pieces out of all parties which are not bad… there’s some good ministers in both of the main parties, and some shockers…

We’re not going to have the Roads of National Party’s… RONS [again]… And there are far too many players in the transport sector. We’ve got to simplify it down so we get what we need – and what we can afford – in Auckland.

Share this


  1. Re: “[Wayne Brown] continues to surprise with some urban transport stances”

    When I was looking at who to vote for last year, Wayne Brown’s transport and urban policies often seemed “I would say this, but someone could easily be saying this and mean completely the opposite thing”. I think we’ve seen over the course of his mayoralty that the reason for this ambiguity is that his politics are kind of both ways. That being said, there is a certain unifying theme to a lot of what he says, which is “more power for me”.

    I haven’t looked into this manifesto beyond this post about it, but the sense I’m getting from this post is… Wayne Brown behaving exactly like I said Phil Goff needed to be. Where Phil Goff sat off and let his Labour party mates do whatever the hell they wanted, Wayne Brown is actually taking it to the government and standing up for Auckland. At this point, it’s so much what I’ve wanted someone in the public eye to say for such a long time, I almost don’t care it’s Wayne Brown saying it.

    Wellington/Central Govt. has been hostile to Auckland for a decade plus. That’s just facts.

  2. I am currently reading “Gas pedal to Back pedal” Keith Mexsom. Wellington/Central Govt has been hostile to Auckland for 150 years.

  3. Remember that “Wellington / Central Govt” is composed of a helluva lot of Auckland MPs. Just saying: lots of them.

      1. Yes, and they answer to the Minister. They are bound by law to do the bidding of the Minister in charge of their Minister. So, civil servants did what Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, the MP for Mt Albert, told them to do. The Light Rail project was instigated by Honourable Phil Twyford, Minister for Te Atatu – previously Minister for North Shore – he was Minister for Transport, Minister for Urban Development, also Disarmament and Economic Development. Similarly, Honourable Michael Wood, who represents Mt Roskill, was both Minister of Transport and also Minister for Auckland.

        The sad truth is that the MPs who have screwed up Auckland, have mainly been Aucklanders themselves.

        And Wayne Brown, currently when not playing golf, usually hangs out in the Far North…

        1. That is what the law states, however reality is quite different. Ministers and MPs are ultimately in charge but in reality they can’t be over the detail of everything and there is plenty of scope for government departments to get what they want.

          I agree though, there are roughly 40 Auckland MPs in parliament and if they really want things to change they should be able to drive that change.

        2. ‘Wellington’ is a synonym for central government, like Washington or Canberra are.

          Big decisions are made by the whole Cabinet, not one or two Ministers.

  4. Too many people don’t accept public transport, busways, bus lanes, biking and climate change. They love their cars, want more car parks, roads and less speed bumps.
    Wayne Brown impressed me saying that we don’t need more roads. Congestion or road toll charges, dynamic lanes and transponders are very low cost ways of fixing the problem.
    Public transport numbers are growing rapidly in many world cities but here in NZ the news is not getting through.

    1. The message does get through, the problem is large parts of the PT system are closed for years, on a go slow or don’t exist at all.

    2. Yeah. You can’t give people a sh#t product (or none at all) and then wonder why they don’t choose the easier option.

      Where we have provided a quality product (Northern Busway), the message has indeed, “got through”. Loud and clear.

  5. I kind of agree with the sentiment, however ironically I doubt he would be the Mayor if Auckland was given more autonomy and power and was taken more seriously. We’d actually get better candidates rather than people like Leo Malloy and I’d imagine a better voter turnout. Under his plan to let Auckland council decide I dont see any vision other than Brown banging on about dynamic lanes and transponders. If they are going to shoot down the two (rather stupid) ideas of tunneled LR and the AWHC then give us something else to believe in? He talks about decide the problem you want to fix first, but we already know all the problems that exist for Auckland both in housing and transport yet he is offering nothing other than pushback against Wellington.

    He also doesn’t seem to recognise that General Elections are a form of local election as well and that if a party promises something for Auckland and Auckland votes for that party then it’s against what he is saying hwen he says things like Aucklanders don’t want light rail etc etc…

    Like where is head is at re: roads though.

    1. The Light Rail we voted for in 2017 and the Light Rail we’re being given once it’s been bounced around a few department desks in Wellington are poles apart.

      I want light rail, not bastardised tunneled monstrosities that become bloated merely to facilitate a hugely expensive tunneled harbour crossing, which we also don’t need.

      1. Exactly, so Auckland Council need to offer that alternative. Not just say we don’t want xyz from Wellington we are just going to do nothing instead. Government sees that Coumncil have made 0 progress on anything since Len Brown and decided they wanted to do nothing themselves rather than leave it council to do nothing.

        Either way it gets skinned Auckland gets shafted.

  6. Wayne Brown continues to do what he promised to do: Be a Bully.

    He is cleverly channelling this towards the frustrations that we as JAFAs constantly suffer.

    Rodney Hide set up a supercity and it has failed to deliver.

    A city means apartment buildings, rail based transport and freight solutions.

    Simple, but we also have the benefit of two coastlines, innumerable volcanic remnants, and plenty of green space.

    Unfortunately this has led to decimation of fertile ground, which began when Pākehā first arrived at this place.

    Our city is the most important feature of “the economy of NZ” but we cannot even produce enough kai for ourselves.

    The saddest site for me in the city is where Food Alley was located, now just a pile of rubble, with no plaque, no inscription to remember a truly important feature of our city.

    We need to be building quality communities, as found in Wynyard Quarter, Freemans Bay etc, but in this time (2023) the 15 level apartment block must be the baseline. Plus or minus 5 depending on the reality of location; and as all the eternal plans have indicated, convenient to existing and future transport hubs (stations).

    The Central Rail Link will address sixty years of dreaming, and allow more people to live in healthy, well constructed apartments.

    Intensify respecting our natural privilege!

    1. Matiu – some really good comments from you there, but the phrase:
      “The Central Rail Link will address sixty years of dreaming, and allow more people to live in healthy, well constructed apartments.” – this does not follow. Yes, CRL will do good in connecting the city, but the drive for healthy, well constructed apartments is a completely different story. One does not follow on from the other.

  7. As I live on Great North Rd, time-of-use charging would be absolute hell for me!
    Traffic is bad on GNR every time there is a slight problem on the motorway, so this would make it hell EVERY WEEKDAY between 8am to 9:30am.
    Congestion charges are the right thing to do

    1. Everyone living on Great North Rd, or on any other street in the city that is not a “limited access highway” or motorway needs to be a healthy street, where:
      – people chatting don’t have to pause / raise their voices above the noise of traffic
      – the air is not polluted
      – crossing the street is easy because the carriageway is narrow (not many lanes) and full pedestrian crossings are close together
      – cycling is protected
      – walking and cycling are shaded by trees
      – there is footpath space for seats
      – wait times for active travellers at intersections is 30 seconds or less
      etc etc

      Congestion charging, time-of-use charging, road pricing… all could contribute to this, via funding the changes and via reducing the traffic. But they need to be designed specifically with the healthy street in mind.

      If charging is just designed to ‘take the peak off’ the most congested times they’ll solve a few problems (eg the pressure for widening to reduce congestion) but they won’t create the environment we need to transform the system and provide real choice.

      If time-of-use charging negatively affects you, it will be because they design it to serve those who can pay a bit and who will benefit from slight traffic reductions, rather than for those who can’t stomach more costs and need a more transformative change.

  8. GST on Auckland rates is $320m. GST on council fees would add another $180m. The whole country would want this so that’s $1500m. So is the government supposed to cut the equivalent amount from existing spending in the cities, or what? Brown is muckraking just to make people angry to no benefit. Likewise, to say that Three Waters, MDRS and NPS-UD should go because they haven’t said “what is the problem you’re fixing”, is absurd. There has been a vast amount of analysis and public discussion of exactly these questions. I don’t believe he is saying that in good faith.

    1. It’s a useful discussion. The push-back against ‘central government funding’ from other regions when Auckland asks for badly delayed or deferred infrastructure to assist with the population growth we have foisted upon us is tired and nonsensical, given that a substantial chunk of ‘central government funding’ actually comes from Auckland anyway. It’s likely the Auckland contribution to the CRL is closer to 70% than the explicit 50% that Auckland Council is expected to fund.

      Frankly, with the way Auckland infrastructure has been used as a make-work scheme for the capital, expecting ‘good faith’ discussions at this point is asking a hell of a lot.

    2. It could (should) indeed be “financed in cutbacks”. If Govt gives Auckland 1 billion in tax, and at the same time cuts investment in Auckland by 1 billion, then the net result is neutral – but Auckland has more control over what gets done here. That’s not a tax-and-spend fallacy or fuzzy math, it just simply is a shift in power. Of course central govt won’t be keen, because no entity or person likes giving up power, and money is the ultimate quantified form of power.

  9. Wayne Brown has previously said Auckland is parasitic on the rest of NZ. Thus saying Auckland is subsidising the rest of NZ is a big reversal. Also, saying GST should be ring fenced for various purposes undermines the purity of the tax system.
    Restrictive zoning laws place costs on central government. Devolution of zoning should be contingent on local government allowing adequate housing.

  10. Auckland’s infrastructure decisions from water services to roading and transit should be decided by an Auckland entity, and only voted in by aucklanders.
    I find it extremely bazaar that our central government funds and builds most things in Auckland. As Auckland is a city that is much larger by population than other NZ city’s, it has completely different needs and different industries.
    I have always thought Auckland should become a state or central government hands it’s share of funding over to Auckland transport to build infrastructure.

  11. Auckland needs to claim on its ratepayer funded insurance policies to pay for 3 waters renewal. Council has signed of in inaccurate asset management plans for years

  12. I agree we should have more say and more funding in Auckland. I like the sound of Three Waters though Auckland would probably benefit the least from it. MDR’s were thrust on us because council failed to come up with enough density by itself.

  13. Some comments:

    a) “we don’t even have the power to set parking fines” – No, individual councils shouldn’t.

    b) “The government do need to give Auckland more decision making powers” – Yes, AT should be disbanded and Land Use & Transport planned under 1 roof. (The same should happen across the rest of NZ)

    c) “fully integrated transport plan” – Yes. The NBE & SP & LTM Acts may need to be changed/refined
    to ensure integrated transport plans are developed with the Regional Spatial Strategies. The plans would have detailed infrastructure and costs for the first 10 years to align with Authority Long Term Plans, with higher level estimates for 10-30 years.

    d) “The manifesto calls for a “fundamentally different relationship” between central government and Auckland, which the mayor says is key to delivering his election promise to “stop wasting money”.” – The 30 year Regional Spatial Strategies / Integrated Transport Plans would help ensure local and central government alignment. Social cost-benefit assessments should still be required, but so should assessment of the underlying subsidies, e.g. road users receive.

    e) “Time-of-use pricing” – or congestion tolls – yes – hurry up.

    1. Of course parking fines should be set locally. We have the power to set the parking charges locally, but what impact can those have if demand means we want to set the charges to more than the fines. People won’t pay the charges because it is cheaper to pay the fines set nationally decades ago.

      1. Setting of fines should include a full social cost benefit assessment, especially on the impact on those on lower incomes and welfare.

        Given income distributions across the country are broadly similar there is no justification for different outcomes by Council area.

        Fines shouldn’t been seen as a revenue grab either by Councils.

        If Council’s are having trouble with parking compliance its far better to remove the time restriction (where it can be – not all situations are amenable to this) and price the parking space instead on a demand basis.

        That will improve revenue, lower non-compliance and lower enforcement costs, and allow enforcement to be used in a more targeted fashion.

        With respect to fines, perhaps its time we considered moving to income+wealth based fines.

  14. ‘Let’s make a deal’: Brown wants end to ‘planning Auckland’ from Wellington


    While Mayor Wayne Brown may have ideas of saving Auckland and hopeful intentions, unfortunately his track record in the Auckland storms/floods showed a decided lack of skills and leadership.

    His fellow council colleagues were unable to make better the situation, demonstrating an equal lack of skills and leadership.

    Mayor Brown has requested more power and more autonomy for Auckland. It would be a mistake to allow the current batch of council personnel more power to make larger mistakes at the cost to Aucklanders. Parroting you know what you are doing is a far cry from actually knowing what you are doing. Don’t trust them not to cause more damage.

  15. At least the consultation problem can be solved now that the Streets Layout Rule has come into effect. This new legislation means that AT can choose to consult on new things by putting them in place as a pilot and asking people what they think of them after they have been working for a year. No more need for endless rounds of trying to get agreement in advance from people they know will oppose stuff on principle.
    If AT is confident it’s a good idea then they can ram it in a let the thing prove itself. If problems arise, the pilot can be amended.
    If it turns out that the thing really doesn’t work after 2 years they go back to the way it was or try something else.
    But AT do need to be given the push by the Mayor, this blog amd others to boldly go forward and embrace this new approach. It’s going to be a radical departure for them and they tend to be hesitant with bold new things.

    1. It’s a good approach. Does it need our support… or does it need AT to grow a spine? Perhaps you shown the problem better than you intended… it’s a misapprehension that consultation ever meant having to “get agreement in advance”.

      I think AT’s been stifled less by legislation about consultation and more by:
      – an organisational reluctance to call out misinformation from “stakeholders”
      – continued intentional misrepresentation of the public sentiment by some staff
      – a conservative tendency to treat “Change” as something that has to be justified, when in fact the IPCC and our Safety Crisis demonstrate that “The Status Quo” is what should have to be justified.

      1. “a conservative tendency to treat “Change” as something that has to be justified”

        More along the lines of “something that has to be consulted on” and if you don’t like the first answer, do nothing for a couple of years, then re-announce the idea and consult once again. In the mean time, do nothing………

  16. Professor Wayne “Emmett” Brown…

    “Roads, Marty? Where Auckland Council’s going, we absolutely need roads” (from the movie “Back to the Boomer Days”

  17. At least Wayne is standing up trying to do something for Auckland. Len got us CRL and deserves to be well remembered for that. Phil did absolutely nothing for 6 years. Seriously, you never heard anything from him, ever. Except when he scolded AT for putting in too many safety crossings in St Heliers. That froze AT for good. Absolutely useless leader.

    Wayne didn’t get off to a great start with the flooding, but to be fair, he can’t be blamed for a useless civil defence team that Phil did nothing about.

    I don’t find this response surprising from Wayne when he ran on being a Mr Fixit. He is an engineer & problem solver and doesn’t care about people’s feelings. If the data supports an action, then he probably would consider it.
    Remains to be seen if he is able to get traction.
    He tried to get his friend, a former owner of Ritchies, elected to AT Board Chair, but it was not approved by Councillors. I think someone with actual experience with buses would have been great for AT.

    He is correct in his comments:
    “The government that is going out is controlled by the trade unions and the one that is coming in is going to be controlled by the trucking companies,” he said.
    “Look at the amount of money that trucking companies have stuck into National, (that’s) why they are doing motorways instead of rail,” said the mayor.

  18. Good Korero,

    More transparency of hidden reports please, let Auckland decide if Auckland has to pay. Leave no stone unturned for Auckland funding even if you renegotiate contracts or get tough with contractors. Maybe option more capability in-house to bring some work back to council.

  19. I thought it was a brilliant interview. Even though I don’t agree with Brown on everything, I think if he ‘d get a few terms as a mayor the city would be a much better place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *