Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Brown focuses power at top

Mayor Len Brown during the first Auckland Council meeting for the new elected council. Photo / Dean Purcell
Mayor Len Brown during the first Auckland Council meeting for the new elected council. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has concentrated more power in himself and deputy mayor Penny Hulse under a new committee structure he has set for a second term.

Between them, Mr Brown and Ms Hulse control the $4.5 billion annual budget, the 10-year budget, planning and growth for the city, including housing; and oversight of the seven council-controlled organisations (CCOs).

The loss of councillors Richard Northey and Ann Hartley - two members of the mayor's inner sanctum last term - has not been used by Mr Brown to promote and broaden the roles of senior councillors like the left-wing Mike Lee and Cathy Casey.

Instead, he has promoted first-term right wing critic George Wood to one of four committees of the whole council, who gets to chair a watered-down version of the regional development committee held by Mrs Hartley.

Mr Brown has also stripped Rodney councillor Penny Webster of much of her finance committee responsibilities in the last term, deciding to be more hands-on with his statutory responsibility for the budget and long-term spending.

She is the biggest loser of the new structure.

Mr Brown has also chosen not to promote someone to replace Mr Northey in the CCO role, handing the reins to Ms Hulse, who he had no hesitation in reappointing his deputy for a second term after displaying "remarkable and positive leadership" in the first term.

Mr Lee, who will chair a new physical infrastructure committee, and Dr Casey, who will chair the community development, safety and social infrastructure committee, are happy with their roles, but kept away from the top team.

First-term councillor Linda Cooper has been promoted to chair the hearings committee. Mrs Webster is deputy chair of the committee, which determines matters relating to resource consents and plan changes. The right-leaning politics of the pair will be welcomed by the development community.

Mr Brown said he wanted to see a council that leaves politics at the door and focuses on getting the job done for Aucklanders.

"As with the first term I have taken an approach that sees leadership responsibilities broadly shared across the chamber, across the political spectrum and across the Auckland region," he said.

However, Mr Brown has not given his most vocal right-wing critic, Cameron Brewer, a role in the new set-up and was made to apologise yesterday to another right-wing critic, Dick Quax, for not consulting him or even giving him the "courtesy of a phone call" before announcing his post.

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