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Q+A: The panel discusses the local body elections

Published: 3:13PM Sunday October 10, 2010 Source: Q+A


PAUL Let's talk about the result. Start with Auckland - what the hell was that about?


(Former Labour MP)

I think Len summed it up: Auckland, it's our time. I think for me, having someone authentically engaged with communities across Auckland was the critical factor. Where you have people who have relationships with their communities, mobilise their communities, communities will get out and vote, and particularly in South Auckland. It was interesting.

PAUL Well, he showed that you can mobilise South Auckland.

LOUISA Absolutely. So our people aren't apathetic. Actually, they just don't vote for people who don't connect with them. And I think that's the beauty of having Len in the position he's in, because it is about unifying a cross section.

PAUL You can't take it away from Len. I mean, six, eight months ago, it was John Banks' for the taking, wasn't it? Len came in and stressed this connectability thing.


(Political scientist)

And Banks was also essentially the 'regime support' candidate from the get-go, and I think that actually didn't help him. And the other, that certainly there'll be ramifications in Wellington this morning when National thinks about when they launched on this process -- and Rodney Hide, the minister, will also be reflecting on this - when they launched this process they would have never contemplated ending up with a centre-left dominated-

PAUL It's coming down to bite them in the bottom.

JON Yeah. And that's what Auckland has said, really. It's a hedge. It's a hedge about the way the supercity has actually gone through, the length of time it's been discussed, and what have you.


(CEO Auckland Chamber of Commerce)

I think to me it was an issue of teams, and I think that Len got a team together and he got a story that he told, and he told it really well. I don't think the right got their act together in Auckland, and they need to face up to that. If they stand for something, they should have said what they stood for and articulated that message. They didn't.

JON The only one who did was actually the younger candidate, Cameron Brewer, who actually divorced himself from the C&R ticket.

PAUL But we'll wonder forever what happened to the John Banks campaign, particularly in that last two or three months. I wrote, a while ago, that I'd never seen him so tired.

LOUISA I think it was arrogance, at the end of the day. It was arrogance, and they also thought that because they had a whole lot of resources and could flood the market with advertising that in the end, a lot of people were quite critical of.

MICHAEL I don't see it as arrogance, I'm sorry. I think it was the wrong story. I don't think we had the John Banks that we knew; I don't think the personality was there, the smiling man. There was too much reinvention, there was too much wrong message, there was too much old-party stuff. Bring me, you know, something new.

LOUISA But that's part of the arrogance, from my perspective.

PAUL I know I felt during a debate - I did the New Zealand Herald online debate, it was a 90-minute affair, and Mr Brown is promising all kinds of things, and Mr Banks is kind of saying, 'You can't afford it, you can't afford it', and there was nothing being promised, or nothing being sold. There was no real message. Also his humour was lacking. Where was his sense of humour?

LOUISA But he doesn't have relationships, Paul. I mean, I believe in the last couple of weeks he tried to engage with Pacific communities by going to their churches. I mean, you don't do that. And I think what Len displayed - and particularly yesterday, he went back to where he comes from, which is Otara markets.

JON But it's a bit late to make that push at the same time that- In that debate last Thursday where you write off, and you start talking about a South Auckland plague. I mean, how can you unify, how's anyone gonna be attracted to a candidate who talks about, essentially, a plague sweeping across Auckland, trying to fear his supporters into voting?

MICHAEL To some degree he was close, because Auckland, as we've seen, it's a game of two halves. This is the place to say it. And he could've offered him something. And I think, as Paul said before, what he kept on doing was saying what we can't do instead of what we can.

JON But it destroys the idea of being a uniter, you know?

PAUL So either way, is it a great victory for the left in Auckland, or was it simply we voted for the nicer guy, or the guy we liked more?

LOUISA No, this is the left. This is about mobilising people on the ground and actually having a narrative.

PAUL I think you're fantasising. I don't think people think any less of Key because of what happened yesterday.

JON No, but there's no coattail here, either. You know, let's face it, the prime minister, his colleagues and Rodney Hide were strong supporters of the Banks campaign. Now, that has not succeeded.

PAUL No, but the Banks campaign did not deliver, I think the other part of that argument.

MICHAEL But nevertheless, what we do, we voted for an individual and what he believed in, and he's gonna deliver.

LOUISA And a philosophy.

PAUL Can I move on to other centres? Because we can't be completely Auckland-centric, even though we're standing here at the home of rugby, the noble Eden Park. The Bob bounce. Bob Parker - is he the first person ever to defeat Jim Anderton in an election?

JON Well, other than Jim Anderton. He does a pretty good job of doing it himself, I think.

PAUL But it's an amazing result for Bob. And listen, come the hour, come the man. Whereas Christchurch people might have been fed up with a certain smugness in Bob's voice, or it can appear to be a certain smugness and a certain liking for one's own voice kind of thing, um, the earthquake happened and Bob was just perfect.

MICHAEL He responded well to it, he was there, he was saying the right things, doing the right things.

LOUISA But it's easier to mobilise around crisis. I mean, let's get real.

JON True, and I support that in the sense that the next election for Bob Parker will be the real referendum on post-earthquake thing but, you know, look, he was there, he made the right soothing noises when that was important to the disrupted people down in Christchurch, so good on him. I hope the 72-year-old Jim Anderton decides now, finally, that that's the end of a political career.

PAUL Quick word about the capital. Kerry Prendergast. I didn't see this coming at all, Louisa. I thought Kerry was there until she was 90.

LOUISA Michael Fowler came out earlier in the week and completely lambasted the last council, and, you know, very dissatisfied about her leadership. So, you know, good on the people of Wellington, and let's see what happens tomorrow when those thousand votes are counted.

PAUL It's very close, isn't it?

JON And Bob Jones will be kicking himself that he didn't actually run his slate of candidates, cos he may well have won.

PAUL Let us go north to south through some of the other contests. The Far North: Wayne Brown versus Sir John Goulter, the former head of Auckland Airport and Reserve Bank director. That's gone to Wayne Brown. He's a good doer.

JON It was a close race, I think, wasn't it?

LOUISA Very close.

MICHAEL It was, but I mean, Wayne, he gets stuff done. He's an action man.

PAUL Yeah, he's no nonsense. I quite like him.

JON I like the Shadbolt one, Paul.

PAUL Just a minute, let's go to Hamilton, first of all. Former National Party MP Bob Simcock - swing to the left - main challenger was Julie Hardaker. Big upset there. In August, the Waikato Times called it a one-horse race, but last week a new poll had Julie Hardaker ahead, and they said it'd come down to the wire.

LOUISA No, absolutely not. And if you look at Martin Gallagher's results, he topped the council by finishing first in that race, so definitely a swing to the left and Labour. It'll be interesting in next year's general election.

PAUL Taupo and New Plymouth both had former Labour cabinet ministers standing. They had different outcomes. Let's look at Taupo first of all, where the gap was just 132 votes. 300 votes to count; result not expected till tomorrow. New Plymouth, Harry Duynhoven.

JON When I look at the slate of the results last night, Paul, what staggered me was just how many former parliamentarians are running for local body councils and what have you. And in one sense, that experience is really useful for those local councils, but in other cases, one suspects it's the paucity of employment options.

PAUL That reminds me of another thing about Auckland, of course, is the wealth of political experience and cunning and determination that's gone on to that council.

JON And so long as it doesn't factionalise, that's good.

MICHAEL How frustrating will that be for Len to work with? It's going to be working with a room full of chief executives.

PAUL You see, I can see Sandra Coney becoming the mayor of West Auckland, I can see Mike Lee becoming the mayor of the inner city. That's gonna be a very powerful little constituency.

LOUISA But the choice of deputy mayor will be really interesting. And I am all for the male/female element, so from my perspective, probably Penny Webster, if you look at the geography, would be a great choice.

PAUL Does Len choose the deputy mayor?

LOUISA He does.

PAUL He becomes the mayor on November 1. Very good indeed. And then George Hawkins. Now, he's won Papakura?

LOUISA He's on the local board.

PAUL So he'll be stepping down, probably, as a parliamentarian.

JON Could well be another by-election, possibly.

LOUISA Well, hopefully George will time it. But that's the seat I've been looking at just quietly, Paul.

PAUL Good on you. So what are you looking at?

LOUISA Manurewa. I think I won't be too bad.

PAUL I don't want to use the words rats and mice, but I'm thinking of Whanganui, and Michael Laws no longer the mayor there. That's gonna be interesting.

LOUISA He's on the council, though.

MICHAEL He's on the council. That's another frustrating thing for the new mayor.

PAUL And Suzanne Prentice took on Tim Shadbolt, but to no avail.

LOUISA And didn't want to debate, which is an interesting position to take as a civic leader. She didn't want to do any debates with him. Apparently they didn't have one.

JON It seems the good people of Invercargill and Tim Shadbolt are made for each other. And I remember the radical Tim: 'I don't care where, so long as I'm mayor'. But he's found his place, and they love him down there, obviously.

LOUISA And he was honoured in Waitakere last week, one of the last acts of Bob.

PAUL And he's such a nice man, this is the thing, and obviously very good at his job. I think he had a difficult term last term, with people writing him off. Well, he's still there, more powerful than ever in the beautiful province of Southland and Invercargill.

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