The Herald editorial this morning slams Len Brown for pretending he can advance any of his pet projects because the shattered image of his mayoralty.
As part of his platform for last year’s local body elections, Mayor Len Brown said he would push for a 2016 start to Auckland’s $2.86 billion city rail link. He reiterated that policy in aÂ HeraldÂ opinion article this week, and said it would be his top priority for 2014. But although the song remains the same, the mayor’s ability to gain an early start to the rail link has been much reduced.
This is a consequence of Mr Brown’s diminished standing following the revelation of his poor judgment, conflicts of interest and lack of accountability arising from his two-year affair.
The Government knows full well that with the public and councillors barely tolerating the mayor, it does not need to respond to his entreaties unless it is to its advantage.
Len Brown is a lame duck mayor who can be safely ignored. What is he going to do if he doesn’t get his way? Call a meeting in the Ngati Whatua Room?
Given that, the focus of debate about the link should be squarely on funding options for the Auckland Council, which will share the cost of the project with the Government. It has long been apparent that agreement on this will not be easy.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has insisted neither tolls, congestion charges nor a regional fuel tax would be used to pay Auckland’s share. His stand echoed that of Steven Joyce, his predecessor in that portfolio. Mr Joyce has also argued the cost of the project would leave little for any others in Auckland over the same period.
Such reservations may not have been insurmountable for a mayor at the height of his powers. Mr Brown would have been able to suggest forcibly, and rightly, that Aucklanders showed their backing for the link by re-electing him and should next be able to choose whether they pay their share through road charges or higher rates.
Mr Brown, however, is clearly compromised as much in the eyes of the Government as his own councillors, who will have more say in the development of major policies. Ministers will feel far less inclined to bow to pressure applied by a mayor who no longer has the backing of a substantial number of Aucklanders.
Here, as in other matters, Mr Brown will struggle to drive things forward.
The only thing Len Brown will be driving forward will be his new car.