Banks ousts Hubbard

By Bernard Orsman

John Banks was re-elected Mayor of Auckland City today after beating Dick Hubbard in a turnaround of the polls three years ago.

The former mayor won by a comfortable margin of 11,000 votes in what was a low-key campaign and low voter turnout at the polls.

In the voting for Council, the right-leaning Citizens and Ratepayers lobby (C&R) won 11 of the 19 available seats, giving Mr Banks a comfortable working majority for his term ahead.

At 12.55pm Mr Banks told a small gathering at his family home in Remuera that he was humbled by the support of Aucklanders who had given him a second chance.

"For that I wont let them down," Mr Banks said.

He said three years ago he had had his wings clipped severely by the people of Auckland. Over the last three years he had learnt to fly again only not so high and not so fast.

"My mayoralty will be driven by goodwill, affordable progress and constant decisive leadership," Mr Banks said.

Mr Banks also paid tribute to Mr Hubbard and his wife Diana for stepping up to the plate and offering themselves for civic duty.

"I wish them well and every success for the future," Mr Banks said.

In 2004, Mr Hubbard rode the wave of public opposition to the eastern highway, V8 car race and Mr Banks' aggressive leadership style to win by 19,016 votes.

In a remarkable comeback, Mr Banks capitalised on three years of soaring property and rates bills, political infighting on the left-leaning council and poorly managed projects like the $43.5 million Queen St upgrade.

Mr Banks entered the race in July, promising a new style and new policies. He has promised to consult ratepayers in future and build goodwill.

Mr Banks is the first mayor to make a comeback since Sir Dove Myer Robinson in 1968. Mr Hubbard is the third mayor to be turfed out after one term in office, joining Mr Banks and his predecessor, Christine Fletcher.

Mr Hubbard, the cereal maker and political novice, never looked confidently in control. His strong public mandate was undermined almost straight away by his deputy and City Vision leader, Bruce Hucker. Their skirmishes led to the perception of Mr Hubbard being a lame duck mayor.

He was not helped by having to work so closely with the City Vision bloc, which failed to look after him and went crazy with the chequebook, hiking household rates by 33 per cent, water rates by 20 per cent and taking business class travel junkets.

Mr Hubbard also became the scapegoat for badly managed projects like Vulcan Lane, Khartoum Place and Queen St.

Nor did he do himself any favours by dying in a ditch over water rates. He refused to accept the findings of a parliamentary inquiry accusing the council of misleading ratepayers, well after all his opponents had run for cover.

A disappointed Mr Hubbard, flanked by his wife Diana, said he would have liked to have got across the line but that was not the case to be.

"I don't have a sense of bitterness at all. I totally accept the result. My conscience is clear. I gave it my best over the last three years and tried my best in the campaign.

"I'm happy I kept my values and integrity in tact," Mr Hubbard said.

He wished Mr Banks all the very best for the next term but said he still had reservations about his style.

Mr Hubbard acknowledged it had been a difficult three years and his council had taken the hard call on rates.

"The very clear message from the people of Auckland was they voted Auckland to be moving forward. The reality is the only way you could do that was to go with some rates increases and I had no doubt I paid the price for that.

"But I'm still happy we have done it. It was the right thing to do," Mr Hubbard said.

He said Aucklanders wanted action while the council had not gone too fast for Auckland, Mr Hubbard said the council may have gone too fast for the electorate and voters.

The 11 C&R representatives are former deputy mayor David Hay, Linda Leighton, Graeme Mulholland, Noelene Raffills, Douglas Armstrong, Toni Millar, Ken Baguley, Aaron Bhatnagar, Paul Goldsmith, Peseta Sam Lotu-Liga and Greg Moyle.

Just five of the new council are from Labour or City Vision - Cathy Casey, Glenda Fryer, Leila Boyle Richard Northey and Graeme Easte.

Two independents - Denise Roche and Bill Christian and Focus Eden-Albert member Mark Donnelly make up the rest of the council.

Of the former councillors who stood again, Action Hobson reps Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson have been voted out, as have Neil Abel, Faye Storer and Lindsey Rea.

C&R leader David Hay called today's result "fantastic", particularly for the five new councillors.

"We are thrilled and we are going to make a difference in the city of Auckland."

My Hay said Council would take things quietly to begin with and get to grips with the expenditure of the Council.

The new council would review projects one by one, and see how they stack up.

"We can't have affordable growth or reduce the huge forecast increase in rates without cutting something.

"We are not magicians, so something will have to go."

My Hay reiterated that C&R would keep rates to the council's rate of inflation.

"If we need funds outside that, we will go to the public and consult in the proper manner", he said.

City Vision leader Richard Northey was disappointed at the loss of four of the ticket's nine seats on Council, particularly "after doing a good job on the last council".

Mr Northey acknowledged that internal divisions and high rates counted against the ticket.

The behaviour of Bruce Hucker, who was dumped as City Vision leader over his hard-line stand on water rates "may have cost us a seat or two".

In one of City Vision's strong holds, the liberal ward of Western Bays CNR candidate Greg Moyle bagged one of the two council seats.

Mr Northey said City VIsion would work with Mr Banks and the council majority on areas of consensus but said the ticket sill had some very capable councillors to form a positive and effective opposition.

Mr Northey took the loss of control of the council in good spirits saying "we only lost one seat per ward".

In a minor upset, former CNR councillor Mark Donnelly was re-elected to council on a new ticket - Focus Eden-Albert.

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