Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Labour and Greens upset over mayor's 'fence-sitting' on plans

An artist's impression of the proposed convention centre, looking south down Hobson St.
An artist's impression of the proposed convention centre, looking south down Hobson St.

Labour and Green MPs are disappointed at Auckland Mayor Len Brown for "sitting on the fence" and not doing enough over the pokies for convention centre deal.

Mr Brown yesterday voted with right-leaning councillors against a motion to oppose legislation allowing SkyCity to increase gambling opportunities in return for building a $350 million national convention centre.

In a terse debate which Citizens & Ratepayers councillors repeatedly tried to shut down, the council voted 12-9 against the motion from City Vision councillor Cathy Casey.

For the umpteenth time, Mr Brown extolled the economic benefits of an international-size convention centre, but refused to take a firm position on the Government's deal with SkyCity before knowing the details.

However, the mayor has made no secret of his support for a pokies for convention centre deal so long as strong measures are put in place to minimise harm.

He would not say if he would withdraw support if the measures were not met.

Green list MP Denise Roche said it was the second issue where Mr Brown had sat on the fence. The first was the industrial dispute at Ports of Auckland. She said the proposed SkyCity deal of up to 500 new pokies undermined the Auckland Council's intentions to create the world's most liveable city.

Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern was also disappointed at the position of Mr Brown, who is a member of the Labour Party.

"I do think waiting for the Government to produce additional information may mean waiting until the deal is done. There would have been no harm for him today delivering a message of what he thinks is acceptable for his community and what he doesn't," she said.

Labour figures also commented on social media outlets yesterday, with Puketepapa member Michael Wood accusing the mayor of siding with the gambling industry and Joan Caulfield, former Prime Minister Helen Clark's long-serving electorate secretary, saying she was "hugely disappointed in Len Brown".

Left-leaning councillor Mike Lee was also furious at Mr Brown for refusing to allow him to speak before a third, and ultimately successful attempt by C&R councillors, to shut down the issue.

The five C&R councillors and four right-leaning independents - Cameron Brewer, Calum Penrose, Sharon Stewart and John Walker - have refused to participate in debate on the issue until there is a specific proposal on the table.

Yesterday, C&R leader Chris Fletcher refused to say if she stood by comments in June last year in which she said Aucklanders should not sell their souls for SkyCity to build a centre because it would only create more misery for problem gamblers and children.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett also addressed councillors yesterday, saying the single biggest thing which could make a difference to the Auckland and national business environment was a national convention centre to accommodate 3000-plus delegates.

But Mr Barnett was critical of the Government and the casino for not presenting the public with all the facts in an informed and measured way, including the damage of gambling to the community.

HOW THEY VOTED

Against pokies for convention centre deal

Cathy Casey, Sandra Coney, Alf Filipaina, Michael Goudie, Ann Hartley, Penny Hulse, Mike Lee, Richard Northey, Wayne Walker.

In favour

Len Brown, Arthur Anae, Cameron Brewer, Chris Fletcher, Des Morrison, Calum Penrose, Dick Quax, Noelene Raffills, Sharon Stewart, John Walker, Penny Webster, George Wood.

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