As the dust settles on the local elections we have new mayors in Hamilton and Dunedin and Bob Parker successfully using his no-campaign campaign and the earthquake to retain his mayoralty in Christchurch. Wellington was an unexpected cliffhanger that has the media scrambling with why they failed to cover it more – Prendergast currently holds on by 40 votes, but nothing will be decided before Monday when special votes etc will be counted.
But in Auckland there was always going to be an incumbent winning for the first time, and it turned out to be Len.
But it’s not just the man at the top the left can be happy with. Auckland may have provided a few new seats to National at the last general election, but the centre-right mood is evidently not lasting. Because despite Rortney setting up the supercity to give over-representation to conservative rural areas, and setting two-member seats up so that the traditionally low-voting poor would miss representation, the council and local boards aren’t looking very right-wing either.
Over the last few weeks we saw those in poorer areas making sure they had their say, and a much better organised campaign from the Left. This gave Len a great mandate, winning by 14% over Banks, but also ensured a council he could get more from. Of course Len has shown in Manukau how well he can work across the aisle, but it’s always easier the more there are on your side.
By my reckoning there are 10 progressives and 9 conservatives on the council, with 1 genuinely centrist independent. The conservatives include only 5 Citizens & Ratepayers (National’s local body vehicle); and also include former Papakura mayor Calum Penrose who’ll be more pro-Papakura than pro-right wing, and Arthur Anae, who campaigned on left-wing policies, including making Auckland more like Manukau with full services etc (how well he would have got on with former National Party colleague Banks as mayor is unclear…).
The Local Boards have certainly thrown up some surprises – in the North Shore especially. There the majority of all the boards appear progressive, sometimes strongly so – this in an area that has had no Labour MPs in the last 2 elections, and most seats are very safe National. C&R managed a clean-sweep in Botany (Howick), but other than that struggled to impose in some of their heartland areas.
Of course, the SuperCity set up is going to provide some hard work for Len and co to overcome and get democracy back into it – but I’m sure he’s the man who’ll be up to the job.
As a footnote, the representation on the Council looks both good and bad. Good on gender – 40% women compares well to parliament. Bad on ethnic diversity – the need for Maori seats is only shown up by the results. Alf Filipaina is part-Maori/part-Samoan, and Arthur Anae is the only other non-European at the top table. 90% Pakeha isn’t a good look in a city that’s only 60% white.
[Update: missed Des Morrison being Ngapuhi – 85% Pakeha’s still a fairly large over-representation though. The 20% Asian population being the most markedly missing]