Race for Auckland mayoralty: no candidate has a solution

In the council’s inaugural election in 2010, Len Brown conducted a winning campaign with a list of bold transport plans topped by the $2.5 billion City Rail Link.

The 2013 vote passed almost like a half-time election, with the council part-way through creating the development blueprint, the Unitary Plan and still working through bedding in a single rating system.

This year is different. Mr Brown has called it quits. The City Rail Link is under construction. The Unitary Plan will be in place.

In short, there’s a clear platform for the next visionary leap forward.

With 11 weeks to go however, there’s no sign of the next Big Idea.

There is no money left for a big idea.  Len Brown has mortgaged Auckland for decades. 

Phil Goff backs Light Rail for the isthmus suburbs. Vic Crone would cap rates at 2 percent. Mark Thomas wants to sell the Ports of Auckland operations (but not the land), and John Palino wants to build a satellite city.

The question is – are these big enough to count as a quantum leap likely to happen only due to strong mayoral qualities?

Light Rail is a project well advanced inside the council’s Auckland Transport agency.

It’s a probability, though its case will have to proven against other mass transit options such as busways.

This year’s average rate rise was 2.5 percent, making Ms Crone’s pledge just 0.5 percent under par.

Selling the port operation is a long shot, given the amount of work done, and still to be weighed-up with the long-term future of the port’s location.

Mr Palino’s satellite city is likewise a longshot, throwing six years of planning and the likely outcome of the Unitary Plan to the wind – a plan he also intends to cast aside. Somehow. […]

Much of the campaign talk from the four focused on the need to make the council more efficient, and to cut what they called wasteful spending.

At times the campaign sounds like a contest to see who can paint the council’s financial performance the bleakest, and why candidate A or B is the best to save ratepayers from the perceived bloated bureaucracy.

That is important, but voters should not ignore details such as that the council itself has found $70 million of savings in 7 months in procurement alone, with the efficiency drive still in full swing.

Activist Penny Bright has her own transparency agenda, and the most recently declared candidate, 22-year old Chloe Swarbrick, is still preparing policy releases.

Maybe the answer to “Where’s the Big Idea?” is that there’s still 11 weeks to go.

Plenty of time for a mayoral candidate to unveil an inspiring, bold and deliverable policy that will capture the imagination of voters.

The only way to liven up this Auckland mayoral race is to sort out which of the right leaning candidates is going to step away.  It is clear Goff will win if the other three split the right vote.

Not only is the vote split, but campaign finance is very hard to come by when nobody believes you can win.

Word is that a poll will soon reveal which of Thomas, Crone and Palino have the most support.  On that basis, the worst two should bow out immediately unless they are really there to get Phil Goff over the line, something which hasn’t been out of the question when it was discovered Vic Crone’s close working relationship with Labour party projects.


– Todd Niall, RNZ

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