Auckland Mayoral Candidates Wayne Brown (left), Viv Beck , Leo Molloy, Efeso Collins, Craig Lord, Gary Brown and Ted Johnston at the mayoral debate. Photo / Greg Bowker
It was fast and furious and described by one hopeful candidate Efeso Collins as “mayoral speed dating”.
The race to become the next mayor of Auckland entered a new phase last night when the main candidates came face-to-face for the first time in a debate hosted by the Penrose Business Association.
Seven candidates attended the event – Viv Beck, Gary Brown, Wayne Brown, Efeso Collins, Ted Johnston, Craig Lord and Leo Molloy.
Manukau councillor Efeso Collins, who has been endorsed by Labour and Greens”, restaurateur Leo Molloy, businessman Wayne Brown, Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck and freelance media operator Craig Lord are the main contenders.
A Ratepayers’ Alliance-Curia poll last week showed very little separating the five candidates in the contest for the mayoral chains.
Also showing their wares last night was Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chairman Gary Brown and lawyer Ted Johnston, who used the occasion to bring out a large billboard proclaiming him as the co-leader of the New Conservative Party.
The pair gave strong performances at the business-friendly event at the Novotel & Ibis Hotel at Greenlane, with Brown saying Auckland Transport should focus on widening footpaths for kids on bikes and mobility users instead of building expensive cycleways.
Johnston was for moving Ports of Auckland to Manukau Harbour, saying it was near the industrial powerhouse in South Auckland and main distribution centres. Molloy favoured moving the port to the Firth of Thames and Collins promised not to sell the 100 per cent council-owned business, but favoured another option of moving it to the Firth of Thames.
A lot of eyes were on Molloy, whose habit of attacking candidates and politicians has earned him love and loathing, but last night his words were more in the vein of robust political debate.
Auckland, he said, is about to be swamped by a tidal wave of blue. The right is going to come back and control the city. And if he becomes Mayor, Molloy promised to deal to the council-controlled organisations, including Auckland Unlimited, “whose only achievement last year was to win the America’s Cup for the wrong city”.
Molloy couldn’t resist jibes at councillors Pippa Coom and Chris Darby – “they will be gone” – and quoted a 2020 community newspaper article to take a potshot at Collins.
“Efeso said more rates. He loves taxing you,” said Molloy.
“That’s not true,” Collins replied.
Beck also had a crack at Collins over his flagship policy of free public transport, saying it would cost $500 million a year by 2030 and the money would be better spent on improving public transport.
Beck’s call to arms was to address transport and congestion in particular, saying as the daughter of immigrants she has “got a hard work gene”.
Lord, sporting stitches on his brow after an altercation with an alleged drunk driver last Saturday, was having the time of his life with the format. Candidates were given two minutes to present themselves and their visions for the Super City and just one minute to answer questions. A moderator strictly applied the rules.
Lord, who as a young man rode into Auckland on a motorcycle to a small workshop in Penrose and landed a job as an apprentice engineer, said “pragmatic commonsense is what us engineers do”.
In a question on what the candidates think the council’s core business is, Lord jumped to his feet: “I have been barking about core services for years. I will create a core services strategy and put necessities over niceties.”
Wayne Brown said his pet project for the council is to finish projects that are underway, get value back for ratepayers and reduce costs.
“As far as the Ports go they have to pay $400m as a simple return on $6 billion worth of land.”
Nominations for the postal elections close on August 8. Voting papers will be sent out to those on the electoral roll between September 16 and 21. Voting opens on September 16 and closes at midday on October 8.
The turnout for the Auckland Council elections in 2019 was 35.3 per cent.