The city has spoken – or 30 percent of it has – and Wayne Brown has been voted the next mayor of Auckland.
Brown claimed the win with a staggering 54,000 votes over nearest rival, the Labour-endorsed Efeso Collins.
Auckland City Council said Brown was leading the race with 144,619 votes ahead of Collins by 54,808 votes. The progress results reflect about 90 percent of the votes.
The 76-year-old former North Shore mayor takes the chains from Phil Goff, who is resigning after two terms in office.
Sitting on the centre right, Brown ran a campaign based on financial responsibility and accountability, making a particular target of Auckland Transport.
His victory has already sent out ripple effects with AT Chair Adrienne Young-Cooper resigning hours after the race was called.
Reaction to Brown’s win has been mixed.
Auckland MP Chlöe Swarbrick took to Twitter to congratulate the incoming mayor.
“You’ve promised to fix what’s broken, so I look forward to ensuring Council is held to account on climate action, density done well, liveable streets and well resourced public amenities. For a city that works for all of us.”
Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor said the result was a harbinger of things to come.
“Aucklanders are clearly tired of a left wing forever telling them how to live and what to believe. An excellent sign for further change in 2023.”
Brown ‘needs to pay a bit more respect with his comments’ – NZ Chinese Assoc
New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland branch chairman Richard Leung said while change was always good, he hoped Brown would show a commitment to the near 200,000 Chinese-Aucklanders.
Auckland’s new mayor would need to re-evaluate his communication skills after a number of insensitive comments during his mayoralty campaign such as when he referred to himself as a “round eyes” visiting China, Leung said.
Comments like this could be very damaging from a person in power, he said.
“He’s going to be our leader now and I think he needs to pay a bit more respect with his comments.”
Voting systems needed to change in the wake of just 30 percent of eligible Aucklanders voting in the local body election, Leung said.
New Zealand’s biggest city saw a drop from 35 percent voter turnout in 2019 to just 31 percent in 2022.
Just over 350,000 three voters opted to have their say in Tamaki Makurau.
Leung said the voting structure worked against non-English speakers.
“Elections for all ethnic communities are a problem, it really needs to have literature that the community can take the information from.”
A political expert said despite his track record raising questions, Brown ran a shrewd and targeted campaign.
Jury is out on what kind of mayor Brown will be – Dr Gustafson
Emeritus professor of politics at the University of Auckland Dr Barry Gustafson said the result did not surprise him as Collins failed to mobilise the left of centre vote.
“I think Brown identified a number of discontents the people were a bit fed up with and he played on those and there was a very strong negative vote I think.”
He believed the resignation of the Auckland Transport Chair would be just the start of a mass cleanout at Auckland Council.
“He wants the rest of the board out and he clearly wants to put people in that he knows and trusts.”
Dr Gustafson said the jury was very much still out on what kind of mayor Brown would be.
“As mayor he has got to carry the council with him and work with the professional executives of the council who he’s been criticising.”
But Collins created doubt for voters through his own banalities, Dr Gustafson said.
A prominent LQBTQIA+ advocate has expressed deep disappointment in the election of Brown to the mayoralty.
Shaneel Lal, who headed the ban on conversion therapy, said Brown’s election was a step backwards for the rainbow community.
“I would say Wayne Brown’s views on diversity are quite clear, he said that discussions around his age were as bad as opposing gay marriage.”
Lal said the community was concerned councils would now entertain some staunch right wing views and agreed that the voting systems for local elections were skewed towards the older demographic.
“The whole election was set up to make the rich when there was no effort to make sure the voting process was accessible.”
Phil Goff said he wished the new mayor and council well and that it was not for him as former mayor to comment from the sidelines.
Former National party leader and now Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Simon Bridges is labelling Wayne Brown’s Auckland mayoralty win as an opportunity for business.
Bridges said the new council represented a welcome chance for a reset with Auckland business.
Mayor Brown’s campaign message of empathy for the private sector was music to the ears of the business chamber, Bridges said.
Brown offered a pro-business approach and had picked up on the concerns of Aucklanders with transport at the front of the queue, he said.
Sikh Society of New Zealand president Daljit Singh said the Indian community welcomed the appointment of Brown.
“We need to work together for the betterment of our great city.”
Both Collins and Brown showed strong support for Indian-New Zealanders throughout their campaigns, Singh said.
“He has been very friendly with us and the community is really happy with the result.”
Singh said the Indian community turned out in very high voter numbers.
“Our businesses are struggling, they need more employees but with ram-raids and crime, businesses are crying right now.”
Brown asks to look at the books
In a statement, Brown said he had asked council officers to provide him a full briefing on the state of the council’s books, their economic forecasts for the next three years and all risks.
Brown said this morning he has “noted” the resignation of Auckland Transport chair Adrienne Young-Copper, who quit hours after Brown comfortably won the race for Auckland mayor yesterday.
During his campaign Brown had called for the resignation of the boards of directors of Auckland Council’s council-controlled organisations, and pledged to bring them back directly under the council’s control.
“There is no council agency which is so important to Aucklanders or one about which you are angrier. I think the board of directors should heed the message from the election and offer to resign. Boards of directors at some other CCOs need also to consider their positions.”
Brown yesterday said the number one issue was transport, closely followed by crime, unfinished projects, rising costs and council waste.
It was central government’s job to listen to what Aucklanders wanted, he said.
“Let me be very clear: Wellington’s job is to listen to what Aucklanders say are our priorities, and to fund them – not impose ideological schemes like the $30 billion airport tram, untrammelled housing intensification and Three Waters on a city that doesn’t want them.”
Brown is taking today off to spend it with family.
He said he would spend part of his first week meeting and congratulating councillors, and discussing how best to deliver the change that he says Aucklanders voted for.