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We needed Wayne Brown

Written By: - Date published: 2:01 pm, October 11th, 2022 - 81 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, jacinda ardern, labour, local government, supercity - Tags:

The left and the Ardern government need to start appreciating the new Auckland mayor.

His mandate is comprehensive. Any honest election review would be unwise because the results would blow back on the Ardern government that has smashed and shrunk the assets and decision making authority of local government. Reviews into the diminished purpose of local government and of the democratic system are already underway.

This Brown guy is already showing the Ardern government what they should have done as soon as they got into office: clear out the boards, reassert command of the remaining direct governance levers, and instruct the executive order that it will answer to elected politics again. It’s reaggregated power through recentralisation by leadership from day 1 and not taking two terms to get on with it. Imagine if Ardern had liquidated the corporate boards on entry rather than being screwed around at will by NZTA, Kiwirail, Transpower or the Electricity Authority. Instead …

This Brown guy on day 1 gained a clear impression of the whole with the helicopter tour over the whole region. Goff came from deep in Clevedon way to the south, and mostly just stuck to Council meetings. Central government ministers try to understand Auckland as the aggregate beast of 30% of New Zealanders and 40% of the national economy when there’s some civil emergency to emote about. It’s importantly symbolic and real in its purpose.

This Brown guy is the blank sheet that Auckland needs. Over 6 years we have had billions of ratepayer and taxpayer dollars pumped into projects in Auckland’s CBD, and honestly the result through disruption and COVID is a desert of beautiful concrete landscaping without a plan to revive. A poor return on investment. Any plan he forms couldn’t be worse than what’s happened now: massive regional private malls and their free parking are sucking Auckland’s centre dry.

This Brown guy is also about to reveal the City Rail Link debt bomb flying down hard at Auckland Council. Goff had already taken Auckland’s debt capacity up to its limit. Spending plans without a rating agency impact or big rates increase won’t be possible. I can see Brown appointing himself onto the CRL governance board given the risk it represents to Council. Brown is about to do what we are all doing anyway: tighten our belts in a static economy with high personal and regional public debt.

Brown will have a finely balanced council mix and will need to build a finely balanced committee structure to get much done. Anyone who thinks Mike Lee is the answer to Auckland transport’s woes should try and use Parnell train station. I suspect he will delay his committee structure and use the interregnum moment to its fullest.

We need a really noisy mayor who can push back against Wellington continuing to erase local democracy. Auckland (indeed other centres) needed a mayor not beholden to Labour politics so that he can push harder to get what we need: it’s the inverse of Mayor Len Brown cutting deals with National. For six years Auckland has had a mayor too quiet when he needed to speak out loud.  So far this term Labour has started and delivered only the tiniest of Auckland’s projects, stopped many others, and taken too long to turn around public housing. We’ve needed more.

It’s high time Auckland had a mayor who gained Ardern’s attention, and we’ve got it.

81 comments on “We needed Wayne Brown ”

  1. Peter 1

    Brown will have a year of a Labour Government and two years with a National / Act one. What will be the difference?

    • Ad 1.1

      Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    • psych nurse 1.2

      If he lives that long, he appears unwell, visible weight loss, he teeth appear too big, his clothes hang off him and the venous engorgement of his hands a sure sign of out of control high blood pressure.

  2. Radical Alternative 2

    From where I'm standing, it looks like Brown is scrambling to figure out what his agenda actually is. Cancelling all his media appearances should be a pretty big tell that there isn't much of a plan right now. As for the Labour government, it should be remembered that he wasn't the establishment National candidate, that was Viv Beck, and she had to drop out.

    One of Brown's top guys, Ben Thomas, has also been working with Neale Jones, who is a lot closer to Ardern than Hooton or Hurdle are to Luxon. Like I said, I don't think anyone really knows what Brown is going to do as Mayor, but it does seem as though he won't have as bad of a relationship with central government as some are claiming.

    • tinderdry6 2.1

      "From where I'm standing, it looks like Brown is scrambling to figure out what his agenda actually is."

      He knows exactly what his agenda is, RA. Of course there's daylight between knowing what you want to do and actually doing it. And that's why the next three years is going to be so interesting.smiley

      • Radical Alternative 2.1.1

        Can he explain what it is then? I'm not going to shed any tears for CCO execs, but after a while he's going to run out of scalps.

          • Shanreagh 2.1.1.1.1

            He refers only to ratepayers as though no-one else is important. There are residents as well as ratepayers who live in Auckland.

            He seems to be the type of person that needs someone who has mana/strength and is able to talk to him and say ‘hey boss……’ about things that may be better expressed.

            He also, unfortunately seems to be the type of person though that will react very unfavorably to someone saying this, even if coming from a position of support for him & his policies.

            Luxon appears not to have this kind of person either judging by his own perception/communication blues.

            • tinderdry6 2.1.1.1.1.1

              The mayor is elected by ratepayers. Ultimately, that's who he is accountable to.

              There are a lot of conclusions being drawn about Brown after just a few days. Let's see what he actually does.

              • Shanreagh

                So residents are excluded? Surely Auckland allows residents and property owners to vote. I thought we had tossed the property qualification years ago.

                I had always thought local body elections were on the same basis as the general elections? In the past we used to have a property qualifier so that elections were restricted to those who owned property.

                Ratepayers are the ones who own property.

                By residents I mean the people who rent either by choice or necessity.

                Have I got this wrong? Then are the figures about voting developed against the numbers of property owners rather than the number of the population?

              • bwaghorn

                Um no, it's not 1850, you don't have to be a raye payer to vote.

                • Shanreagh

                  I thought so…..hence my point is valid about Wayne Brown only referring to ratepayers, no-one else exists or perhaps ratepayers are the only ones who are important. Anyway reflects a rightist mindset.

                  • tinderdry6

                    No-one is excluded. When Brown talks about ratepayers it is in the context of ratepayer's 'money'.

                    • Shanreagh

                      As I said reflects a rightist mindset.

                      I could go chapter and verse about tenants paying rates as part of their rent, most prudent LL factor in rates as part of the amount to charge in rent. So it is not ratepayers anything. Once it comes into the council coffers it belongs to the ACC on trust for the total population of Auckland.

                      Charging rates on property is a mechanism for raising funds, they could just as easily levy rates on people who have blue eyes or one leg.

                      So when the Mayor of Auckland refers only to ratepayers it is not inclusive it particularly excludes those who do not own property.

                    • Anne

                      Which is pretty much the point Shanreagh is making.

                      Ratepayers = main source of money = more money for us at the top = money, money money = right-wing tunnel-vision.

                  • tinderdry6

                    "So when the Mayor of Auckland refers only to ratepayers it is not inclusive it particularly excludes those who do not own property."

                    But he doesn't refer to ratepayers. He refers to "ratepayer's money". The expression is similar to when politicians talk about 'taxpayer's money'.

                    • Shanreagh

                      I have heard him speak about 'ratepayer' this & 'ratepayer' that. I am sure he is not meaning residents as well.

                      There is a reason for wording like this.

                      It is easily avoided if one wanted to be inclusive by using the words 'residents' and 'rates take' or words like this.

                      He is focusing on ratepayers. That is his niche. The well being of Auckland residents, different story. They are not his niche…he is centre right after all. Actually I would class him as to the right of centre or a right winger.

                  • tinderdry6

                    "There is a reason for wording like this."

                    You see it, I don't. I see a man whose relatively simple messaging resonating with enough oof the voting public to elect him by a healthy margin. History will judge him by what he achieves, not by how you or interpret every word he speaks.

                • tinderdry6

                  Yes of course. My comment was clumsy. Apologies.

              • So you are saying non-rate paying residents did not and are not allowed to vote? News to me and every other resident of New Zealand.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.2

              He refers only to ratepayers as though no-one else is important. There are residents as well as ratepayers who live in Auckland.

              What is your point? Residents (and businesses) also pay rates indirectly via whatever their accommodation costs are.

              Residents vote as well. Ratepayers actually covers everyone who is resident in Auckland.

              Unless you're trying to say that people from the Waikato or other regions outside Auckland should have a vote in Auckland as well?

              • Shanreagh

                Yes my point is 'residents (and businesses) also pay rates indirectly via whatever their accommodation costs are.' I am not sure that your average renter in the street knows this though.

                So why not be inclusive and call them residents or businesses and not ratepayers. If I was a renter I would not feel very 'included' by someone talking about ratepayers only.

                My point is that language matters. Also that being inclusive & careful in language matters also.

                Not calling for votes from outside though non resident people owning property in Auckland will have got a vote.

                Judging by Brown and his likeness to Trump (pussy/piss) perhaps there is a place for people outside Auckland voting, Ha ha,

                As was often sarcastically said when Trump was elected. The electing of the President of the United States is too important in world terms to allow only those from the US to vote if Trump is the result. I can see parallels with Auckland.

                But as was said yesterday by Stuart Munro this may be a blessing as it will shine a light and perhaps knock for six this idea that righties* know how to manage. *Especially righties with more than a touch of arrogance.

          • Radical Alternative 2.1.1.1.2

            I'd like a bit more detail from the Mayor of the city I live in

            "Let’s keep finding the opportunities to give the harbour back to our people as a place to work, live and have fun."

            This sounds identical to something the head of a CCO would say

            • tinderdry6 2.1.1.1.2.1

              Fair enough. It's typically broad. To his credit, Efeso had a more detailed set of policies on his website (sorry for some reason his site is now behind a login page otherwise I would link).

  3. mikesh 3

    He said that it was "central government's job to listen to what Aucklanders' wanted, and then provide the funds". This from a guy who able to attract only about 180, 000 votes. What is the population of Auckland? Have the reached 1.8 million yet?

    I can see him choking on his own hubris.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      Herad of how opinion polling works ?

      1000 person sample can give a good indication from a population of 4 mill voters, change that to 350,000 voters in Auckland Council election and you have an incredible good sample of how 1.2 mill people think.

      Brown didnt have a majority of the voters – no Mayor in Auckland Council ever has – but its a mandate all right.

      Its not a perfect system, but democracy is like that .

      Your hubris isnt accepting a democratic result…. a very Trumpian thing to do

    • mikesh 3.2

      It's not the result that I'm thinking of. It's his attitude. He seems to think that he should decide what Auckland wants, and that the government should then hand over he dosh without questioning. Parliament has a lot of Auckland members, on both sides of the house, who no doubt might also have an opinion on what Auckland needs.

      Whatever one thinks of Phil Goff, the video clip of Brown singing "Hit the road, Goff". didn't exactly help.

      • Incognito 3.2.1

        It appears that Mayor Brown likes to play the man rather than the ball and has a vindictive streak. Not quite the traits I’d wish to see in Auckland’s First Citizen.

    • lprent 3.3

      What is the population of Auckland? Have the reached 1.8 million yet?

      Roughly 1.65 million. It slowed (thank god) during the pandemic.

  4. Adrian 4

    Never buy a car off a bullshitter and even from this distance Brown is one of the biggest bullshitters I've ever listened to. We used to call them opticians, I men, Ï this and I that.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    The proof or disproof of the pudding will be a little further down the track, and a vocal right of centre mayor may well prove a gift to Labour if he provides screw-ups in the pre-election period.

    The CCOs seem to be uniformly unpopular however, and their clearing away won't cause many tears to be shed. If only the same were true for the probable rates increases.

    • Shanreagh 5.1

      The proof or disproof of the pudding will be a little further down the track, and a vocal right of centre mayor may well prove a gift to Labour if he provides screw-ups in the pre-election period.

      Agree with this. And as thinking people we can always learn and adjust our aims accordingly.

      Ad, if Grant Robertson had been PM would you have written this post in the same way. We know you hold nothing for the current PM and perhaps it is me but I can sense anti Ardern rather than seeing if there are things we can learn from what has happened.

      Also bearing in mind that the initial thoughts of a comprehensive swing to the right have not been fulfilled once the votes cast on the day had been counted and with specials still to come.

      I agree that any last vestiges Nat/Lab of the neo-lib experiment of the late 80s & 90s should have been higher up the order to be demolished than they have been..those whose operation affects the people on low incomes especially. Electricity especially.. 'Competition' has not eventuated with supermarkets and breaking this down has been slow as well.

      I feel though that we have got the message, whatever that was, from Auckland. You could say unkindly that the white shoes and wide boys brigade that we used to tease Auckland about may just have come back with this crass and boorish person. If he does do some good then good on him…..it will be in despite him and not caused by him.

      Would you say that his tenure in Northland or in one of the Health Boards was some thing to be proud of. What bits especially? Past experience being a good predictor of future worth.

      Now I sense a large feeling of 'looka me, looka me' as we got at various times through Covid as if Auckland was in need of special pleading, special special special things for special, special people.

      Rather sick of the anti the rest of NZ coming from Auckland.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        We can focus on the performance of Auckland Council once there is a committee structure and policy starts to roll out.

        From his Far North experience he will reduce debt and transform the Council entities. Best not to get in his way.

        The political rise and fall of Wayne Brown (newsroom.co.nz)

        That tells me he will ensure that power shifts back to the political order. Plenty of the existing Council leadership team will leave – and plenty have been there for too long.

        From his commercial CV the stuff I liked was leading Vector to fix the Auckland power blackout, Chairing the Auckland District Health Board and bringing its reform back on track, and Chairing Transpower when the entire grid failed in 2006. You’re probably too young to remember any of that.

        We should expect a Mayor who doesn't appreciate the difference between a Mayor and a Council Chief Executive. That's what we used to have prior to 1989, which I like a lot: staff answering to elected people.

        • Shanreagh 5.1.1.1

          You’re probably too young to remember any of that.

          Flattery will get you hardly anywhere as they say.

          Perhaps not as young as all that as while at Uni marched against Dove Meyer Robinson's proposed train system……..what were we thinking? Walked up Queen St holding ropes?

          And the usuals Vietnam and the US.

          You have left off the less flattering bit such as the Audit Office investigations etc. Many good people in public life also have good resumes but without having had the Audit Office involved.

          https://oag.parliament.nz/2012/inquiry-far-north-district-council/docs/inquiry-far-north-district-council.pdf/view

          I don’t envy the staff, many who will have been doing their very best, being involved in largescale and long running restructurings and redundancies. Intensely damaging to souls and never really worth it in the end as the entity has to make-up for lost ground and staff. However it is a blunt NZ tool of management ideally suited to those in a 1980/90s mindset (when this NZ management style really was in its heyday)

    • lprent 5.2

      The CCOs seem to be uniformly unpopular however, and their clearing away won't cause many tears to be shed. If only the same were true for the probable rates increases.

      He is pretty much bullshitting about the CCOs. Quite simply he doesn't have the power to do jackshit alone about the boards or employees. Even the council itself doesn't have that much power – they can only vote to appoint board members as vacancies arise.

      So to get what he wants, he'd have to convince board members to step down or to change policies. The problem is that he'd have to convince them that would produce a outcome that is better than they were already providing. So far he has shown neither viable plans nor the skills and abilities to convince anyone apart from fools who have problems understanding even simple slogans..

      Like when he was in the local district health board, Brown is just blustering and will probably be pretty ineffectual because he is fundamentally unconvincing about his competence to anyone who has watched him for any length of time.

      • Shanreagh 5.2.1

        This I agree with. Bluster and bully is the name of the game.

      • Tiger Mountain 5.2.2

        This is anecdotal, but my partner had reason to go to the Mangonui Cruising Club bar in Mill Bay several weeks back to meet some friends. “Browny” was on the cash bar, and repeatedly botched drink orders and gave wrong change according to my partner. Embarrassing for a Supercity Mayor.

  6. John G 6

    It's also worth remembering Brown is 76 so is very unlikely to be doing more than one term. That changes the dynamics somewhat, as he doesn't have long to build relationships, but he also doesn't have to worry about getting reelected.

  7. observer 7

    This post will age terribly.

    "Things are bad, we need change, therefore the change that happened is good". The absurd justification for everything from Mao to Rogernomics to Trump.

    But there's not much point debating an imagined future for Auckland now, real events will settle it.

    • Ad 7.1

      A quick review of Auckland's most effective mayors of the last 40 years, if one assesses them by their key moves:

      – Sir Barry Curtis 1983-2007 Established Manukau Town Centre, key regional parks, about 25% of Auckland suburbs, Manukau rail spur, key industry expansion. Rapid expansion of south Auckland dislocated poor.

      – Phil Warren ARC Chair 1992-2002 formed Metropolitan Urban Limit, massive increase in regional parks. Crushed by Shipley government.

      – Bruce Jesson ARTA Chair 1992-95 partially resisted the worst of Shipley's Auckland asset privatisation. Too short in power.

      – Sir Bob Harvey 1992-2010 Waitakere Massive expansion of Auckland film and television industry, protection of Waitakere Ranges, 15% expansion of Auckland through Westgate and Hobsonville. Crippled by tiny rating base and miniscule industry.

      – Christine Fletcher AC 1998-2001 Pushed Britomart rail station ahead. One-hit wonder.

      – George Wood North Shore 1998-2007 North Shore water treatment plant, North Shore Busway, Massey University masterplan. Undersold politician who lifted entire North Shore.

      – John Banks 2001-4 and 2007-10 sold out Auckland Council's social housing, sold chunk of Auckland Airport shares. Racist monetarist rich guy.

      – Len Brown 2010-16 Auckland Mayor Did deal with Precinct/AMP and government to route and fund City Rail Link, multiple cycleways, formation of CCOs. Unable to handle corporatised power, got good deals done.

      Phil Goff 2017-2022 Auckland Mayor Entire CBD rebuilt to masterplan, went to debt ceiling, City carbon plan, CBD economic decline, 2 CCOs merged.

      Any Auckland mayor now has to deal with an exceedingly weak and corporatised set of entities, weakened still further with the removal of 3 waters.

      Of those who have sought to resist or reaggregate the loss of political accountability, Jesson was there for too little time, Goff was too timid, Wood the most successful.

      Wayne Brown so far is acting like Jesson reborn.

      • Ghostwhowalksnz 7.1.1

        The North Shore water treatment plant ( sewage) in Rosedale Rd has been around for decades

        The North Shore was able to keep its sewage treatment separate when the Auckland Regional Authority was formed and took over the Auckland and Suburbs Drainage Board.

        North Shore treatment plant and connecting sewers was only combined under Watercare when the Super city was created in 2010

        His wikipedia entry seems to be a bit of puffery over the Rosedale plant, as Mayor of the city it was merely upgraded to more modern standards and the outfall is still into the sea 1.2km off Mairangi Bay

        • lprent 7.1.1.1

          The North Shore water treatment plant ( sewage) in Rosedale Rd has been around for decades

          Yeah – I used to drive past it in the 80s heading up to the farm

    • Kat 7.2

      Observer, I would agree with your observation. I would also put forward the notion that the author is merely expressing his opinions on what he would like the Labour govt to do and uses "The Brown guy" as a convenient and controversial protagonist figure.

    • Incognito 7.3

      My gut feeling is that Brown will be a disruptor rather than a ‘fixer’, at best. Time will tell.

      • Kat 7.3.1

        He appears a disruption already. How that guy Brown responds to and manages incidents will be the making or breaking of him and his council. Doubt anyone here willing to hold their breath……….for too long

      • Grey Area 7.3.2

        Yep. He has the wrecker vibe rather than being a builder.

        • Shanreagh 7.3.2.1

          Yes indeed …disruptors can be useful but only if they can be moved aside once their purpose has been fulfilled. 3 years may be 2 years too many.

  8. Ghostwhowalksnz 8

    The City Rail Link Board has the usual types , one from Raglan, one from Wellington, one from Wanaka and the last two from St Heliers and Oneroa on Waiheke

    They are just board paper shufflers The majority not even living in Auckland. And only one change from when the English government appointed them, the one from Nelson replaced !

    https://app.companiesoffice.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/6267870/directors

    • Tricledrown 8.1

      When it comes to underground rail links budgets blow out very quickly.Looking around the world ie HS2 in the UK is one of the latest.With the pandemic ,Labour shortages, fuel prices , material prices and shortages all add up very quickly .Wayne Brown can't control those outside factors and won't be able to blame it on any one else.Cost's will continue to rise until its completed but this will make it even harder to get people out of Cars so more congestion as future projects will be canned by austerity driven council and an incoming National govt.

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    “Wank wank money in the bank” as per the crude saying.

    Brown has a shocking record of unauthorised personal expenditure, insider trading for development projects, sacking union members but not non members. A disrupter may be needed, but not a right wing one.

    • Shanreagh 9.1

      Yes this is why I am amazed at the uncritical acceptance of his past record as if it is some thing to proud of. Many good local body Mayors and Councillors have long terms in office untainted by Audit Office queries and investigations etc. It would give me pause as to whether a person was suited for office based on this past performance.

  10. Sanctuary 10

    From what I have seen Brown doesn't go anywhere without Matthew Hooton glued to his hip. We've elected Mayor Hooton, not Brown.

    • Incognito 10.1

      The tail wagging the dog.

    • Shanreagh 10.2

      Probably wants Hooton to be his Chief of Staff or maybe Brown will lean on the CEO of the Auckland City Council to resign and slide Hooton in. Anything is possible for someone who does not follow the rules and conventions that keep everyone/everything safe. Having a personal office staffed/stuff with personal appointees can wreak havoc with the smooth operating of an organisation as the workers find it necessary to clear everything with the personal office staff first whereas before they may have had a direct link to the Mayor.

  11. From the experience of Northlanders, WB will be nothing but trouble and it will take Auckland 10 years to fix up the mess left by "Mr fix it"

  12. observer 12

    Wayne Brown update:

    When the Herald put it to him that most people would regard his salary of $296,000 as large, the businessman said: "It's not to me."

    I'm afraid that's the real Wayne Brown, not the one dreamed of in Ad's post.

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/auckland-mayor-wayne-brown-cagey-about-work-hours-does-not-think-296000-is-a-big-salary/S67EM6NM2ZLYQDZOLJKCFLLAWY/

  13. Mat Simpson 13

    " The left and the Ardern government need to start appreciating the new Auckland mayor "

    The left is dead and only New Labour exists as Tony Blair and his cohorts re packaged neo liberal policies under a social democrat banner that did not threaten capitalism or the upper classes.

    • Stuart Munro 13.1

      The economic imbalances that create the Left are significant and growing. The Blairites, aside from being an abomination, are a shrinking class isolated from the insecurity created by their failure to hold the line. Things fall apart – the 'centrists' cannot hold.

  14. Good grief this guy Brown is positively Trumpian

    If you look at the tweets about CRL it seems he may not have been correct here as well.

    If he wants to start then then he needs to get some reading in, checking for comprehension with others, keeping hold of his tongue until he has a grip on things.

    One thing going for Trump, clothes-wise, is that he looked smart, well fitting clothes etc.

    • Incognito 14.1

      Pissing against (wrong) trees, scent marking, and showing who’s top dog in a dog-eat-dog world aka Wayne’s World. Yes, definitely some similarities with Trump, but Auckland is a completely different pen compared to the US of A. IMHO.

  15. mark 15

    Yes, the country needs more thieves who want more for themselves, sack public officials so they can steal from the public purse without scrutiny and place their own cronies in power to cover their tracks.

    NZ has enough billionaires buying land to hide from the world without more help from inside the country.

    Lots of complains but nothing in concrete ideas

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