Now that the official results are confirmed it is time to call a wrap on the election campaign and my council career. It certainly wasn’t the result I was hoping for as I really thought Auckland was ready for a visionary progressive Pasifika Mayor Collins who is an empathetic and constructive leader.
I wish the Wayne Brown Mayoralty the best and hope that he will quickly figure out what really needs to be fixed but early indications are not promising. I find it particularly worrying that he is calling for the heads of the Council Controlled Organisations before he has even met the directors or been briefed on what they actually do. Former Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore, as CCO Oversight Committee Chair, spent a huge amount of time working on the CCO relationship and implementing the CCO review. That work is now being trashed by Mr “Fix it”. I would suggest Wayne listen to IMBS Chair Taipiri and show some respect.
However, there are a lot of successes to acknowledge and celebrate. I am super proud and happy that City Vision’s Julie Fairey has been elected and will be joined by Labour’s Lotu Fuli and Kerrin Leoni (there is now one more Labour councillor than previously). They are going to be a formidable team of newbies. The re-election of Councillors Richard Hills, Shane Henderson, Josephine Bartley, Chris Darby and Angela Dalton is especially sweet as they were up against some hideous personal attacks. They have strongly represented their communities and campaigned with integrity so really deserve their wins.
Congratulations and many thanks to my City Vision whānau. I was fortunate to campaign with an impressive and diverse group of candidates with fantastic support from a team of volunteers. It was a mixed overall result for City Vision but I am really happy for all those elected, especially Richard Northey, Alex Bonham and Anahera Rawiri elected on to the Waitematā Local Board. I know they will continue to do great work.
Congratulations as well to the Aotea Great Barrier and Waiheke Local Boards. It is good news the boards are very likely to remain under strong leadership of Izzy Fordham and Cath Handley with a committed group of local board members (the chairs are decided at the inaugural board meeting). I reported every month to the three local boards in my ward and worked closely with them on issues of concern such as the proliferation of helipads and ferry fares . I share my commiserations with outgoing Linda Cooper and Paul Young, both excellent councillors who will be greatly missed for their hard work and regional focus.
I am of course really gutted about my own failure to win re-election to Auckland Council. It has been a huge privilege to serve as Councillor for Waitematā and Gulf ward following 9 years on the Waitemata Local Board. I’m grateful to have been on a Phil Goff led Council. He’s shown incredible leadership through a really difficult time and always kept his good humour.
Over the last term there had been lots of progress and achievements that I am really proud about. From work on local issues like safety outside schools and the covid recovery to being part of a leadership team that saw the adoption of Te Tāruki ā Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Pan, the Climate Action Targeted Rate with almost $1 billion of climate action investment over the next 10 years and the bold Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway. (I wrote up my reflections on the 2019-2022 term covering many achievements here) In particular, I’m proud of the progress we made on the Hauraki Gulf Forum following the adoption of co-governance leadership in February 2020. There is no going back from the path the Forum is now on.
I went out with a progressive, positive campaign to continue this work but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I don’t have a Plan B at this stage but I remain committed to progressing restoration of the Hauraki Gulf, climate justice, and expansion of safe transport choices for Aucklanders. I will never be far from causes towards a fairer, more just and equitable society. I will keep fighting against misinformation and disinformation and holding the spreaders to account (here’s one example from the election campaign on Council’s “out of control budget” ). I will be pushing for electoral reform as the privatised local government elections with antiquated postal voting is clearly not fit for purpose, disenfranchising a large percentage of the population.
I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve received and the many working relationships I’ve built up that I hope to maintain. I need further time to reflect on what I should have done differently and why I didn’t secure support from those who share City Vision’s progressive values. What I certainly hadn’t anticipated was the need to fight an election on two fronts: against an opponent willing to stretch the truth (to put it kindly)* and an often nasty and misogynistic personal attack against me led by the Taxpayers Union. Their extensive database built up from many “anti” campaigns combined with the disinformation campaign against co-governance engineered by Democracy Action against the Hauraki Gulf Forum were all intended to influence the result in favour of C&R endorsed Mike Lee without directly campaigning for him. It was also the first election with very little media coverage at a ward level to counter all the fact-free and alarmist messaging (RNZ Mediawatch: The media and low local election turnout). It is difficult to know whether that had an impact on turnout and the result.
Having said that I absolutely recognise that I must take responsibility for not winning enough votes and support when it counted. There is clearly a lot of anger built up over covid that motivated voters who don’t want further change but also disappointment in what hasn’t been achieved over 12 years of a progressive council that I have been part of. Ironically it is failure to deliver on cycleways that worked against me! I think Hayden Donnell quoted in the Guardian is bang on the money in summing up what has happened.
“I don’t think that this is a complete rejection of progressive politics,” says Donnell, noting that Wellington’s rejection of the Labour-backed candidate took a swing left. “I think that the progressive vote … is disillusioned with how incremental the changes have been, and how their lives are not really meaningfully better than they were three, six or nine or 12 years ago. So you have these two things: you have an energised conservative movement, and you have disillusioned progressive counter-movement. And so you’ve got real gains for the conservative reactionaries across the country.”
I have written to Mike Lee to congratulate him and will continue to stay close to all the communities across Waitematā and Gulf. I know that the kaupapa is strong and there is no going back to the Auckland he, and the other anti- “woke” councillors, want to represent. I’m sad, but probably shouldn’t be surprised, that after campaigning for Mike over three elections he wasn’t able to gracefully pass the baton but ended up aligning himself with C&R and the National party to win re-election. It will be interesting to see how he works with Mayor Brown on issues like Ports of Auckland and adapts to the expectations of a far more respectful way of working with staff than he has previously experienced.
Despite the final result this time around I remain positive and, regardless of the opportunities that come along for me next, I think this election will end up being seen as a turning point that actually strengthens the Hauraki Gulf Forum (especially the debate for co-governance) and the Super City for the best of Auckland rather than rips it apart. The 9 progressive Councillors on the governing body are now the biggest and most capable grouping who I am sure will put up a strong fight to continue the excellent work under way in the interests of all Aucklanders.
I wish the new Mayor and council well and will stay close to the action as much as I can.
Photo taken from the shores of Lake Wanaka where I am clearing my head post election
*Some examples from Mike Lee’s election manifesto
- opposing “plans to hand over control of the Hauraki Gulf to a non- elected ‘co-governed’ authority or similar non-democratic entity” – this is a complete misrepresentation of the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s advocacy position adopted in March 2022
- opposing “the related plans to break up our regional park network” – there have never been plans to break up regional parks or transfer control. The final Regional Parks Management Plan signed off in September 2022 was welcomed for strengthening collaboration between regional parks and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
- Claims that “council spending and debt is out of control”. The budget has been managed prudently and responsibility to retain a AA credit rating
The final breakdown of elections results confirmed I won in Waitematā (city centre and central suburbs) but unfortunately it was a very different picture on Waiheke. I wrote the following for the Waiheke Gulf News (published on 1 December 2022) to set the record straight on a number of the election issues. It is also an opportunity to give thanks for the privilege of serving the Gulf Islands for the 2019-2022 term