Mayoral candidate Steve Crow drew a crowd of tens of thousands to central Auckland yesterday - but it was sex, not politics, the hordes had come for.
Smiling to the lunchtime crowd from a hotted-up convertible Bentley with the number plate Evil, the porn king led the Boobs on Bikes parade down Queen St to promote this weekend's R18 Erotica show in the city.
"This is me with my Erotica hat on. I'm not campaigning for mayor," Mr Crow said.
However, the businessman could not resist a dig at Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard by towing a large billboard accusing him of trying to ban fun in the city.
The parade, which drew a smaller crowd to last year's estimated 100,000 people, has become something of a battle between the two men.
Mr Hubbard has called the parade "morally repugnant" and tried unsuccessfully to stop it. In response, Mr Crow is standing for mayor in October's local body elections.
"I consider it morally repugnant when someone else tries to tell you how to express yourself. If I get into power that would certainly never happen," Mr Crow said.
Mr Hubbard yesterday promised he would have another go next year at banning Boobs on Bikes when the council undertakes a comprehensive bylaw review. He also wanted legal advice on the law that said a women walking topless down Queen St could be arrested for lewd behaviour but scores of topless women taking part in a parade was not a disorderly offence because people had the option not to attend.
Another mayoral candidate and Heart of the City chief executive Alex Sawney said the council should not support parades that were blatantly commercial. He did not want Auckland to become a "shabby, wannabe Las Vegas".
In Queen St, the political fuss was irrelevant as porn stars, like Texan Nina Mercedez, drag queens and male models on the back of bikes, three army tanks and convertibles put on a repeat of last year's spectacle.
Among the topless bike riders was Lisa Lewis, who earned her first 15 minutes of fame last year after a bikini-clad run at an All Blacks rugby test. She then sold the bikini for up to $4000 on Trade Me, a website from which she was later banned.
The spectators included city-based student Rufus Redsell, 21, who said breasts were natural and should be allowed to be shown in public.
City hotel worker Julie Martin said the parade was fabulous and drew more people to the city than the Santa parade.
She had heard Mr Crow was a mayoral candidate and would possibly vote for him: "I think it's a shame if they do away with it, so 'go Steve' I say."
Chris Thomas, an electrical engineer from Sandringham, praised Mr Crow for the parade but reserved judgment on whether he would vote for him.
Meanwhile, Newmarket's last-minute alternative to Boobs on Bikes - a best-dressed woman shopping contest - attracted about 25 entrants at the same time yesterday. Ksenia Alexeenko, of St Mary's Bay, won first prize of $3600 of shopping vouchers. Eight other women walked away with prizes.
Newmarket Business Association general manager and publicist Cameron Brewer said: "Queen St has the strip but Newmarket has the shopping and the style."