Banks calls Williams a lunatic as Super City debate gets ugly

By Bernard Orsman

Auckland's Super City debate has turned rough, with City Mayor John Banks mistakenly sending a text to North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams calling him a lunatic.

Mr Banks said he must have pressed the wrong button. The text was meant for Auckland City councillor and Mr Banks' close confidant, Aaron Bhatnagar.

The text, sent at 5.57pm on Saturday, followed an accusation from Mr Williams that Local Government Minister Rodney Hide misled Prime Minister John Key about his consultation with Auckland mayors.

The spat comes comes as Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey is trying to act as a peacemaker and bring all the mayors together for a meeting on Wednesday with Mr Hide.

"It's hugely important that the mayors are united in a common voice," Mr Harvey said.

But his peacemaking efforts have been criticised after he emailed colleagues to suggest some leading figures in the governance debate, such as Warehouse boss Stephen Tindall, Deloitte chairman Nick Main and Committee for Auckland chairman Sir Ron Carter, take part in the meting.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee replied: "Sound likes elitist bullshit to me Bob."

Mr Lee said it was the "hair-brained (sic) scheming of those amateurs" which encouraged the failed mayoral coup of 2006 that would have consigned the ARC to the political scrapheap.

Mr Harvey has since agreed not to invite the businessmen to the meeting, which may have to be moved from North Shore City Council's headquarters to have any chance of getting Mr Banks to attend.

Mr Hide yesterday said he would be happy to sit down with the mayors and discuss their concerns about the Government's Super City proposal for Auckland.

He had commitments in Wellington and Taumarunui on Wednesday, but would be in Auckland on Thursday.

Mr Hide said the mayors would be able influence the detail of the Government's plans before legislation went to Parliament, but no change would be made to plans for one council, one mayor and 20 to 30 local boards.

The chances of Mr Banks and Mr Williams sitting around the same table are slim.

Mr Williams is convinced Mr Banks is part of a right-wing smear campaign that includes Mr Bhatnagar, Mr Banks' former press secretary Cameron Brewer, who now heads the Newmarket Business Association, and the right-wing blog Whaleoil run by Cameron Slater - son of Citizens & Ratepayers president John Slater, and a friend of Mr Banks.

Whaleoil portrays Mr Williams as the "Clown of Campbells Bay" - "a fool, mad and out of control".

Mr Williams has admitted texting Mr Banks at 10.28pm last Thursday after Mr Banks called a meeting of six mayors that day a "dog's breakfast".

In the text, he urged Mr Banks to work with the mayors on a co-operative plan and not be the "lone sheep".

Mr Banks said he would not sit down with the other mayors if they were committed to patch protection, the status quo and pork barrelling.

"I'm not going to go into a room at the back of the North Shore City Council and watch one of my mayoral colleagues abuse the minister, Prime Minister or any Government official," he said.

* Fanning the flames

"I leave this to Whaleoil. TV3 are running this lunitic (sic) tonight?"
John Banks mistaken text to Andrew Williams, 5.57pm Saturday

"The 'dog's breakfast' as you describe us will develop a co-operative plan for our region. I would recommend that you work with us and not be the lone sheep."
Andrew Williams text to John Banks, 10.28pm last Thursday

"... I think we should also invite to join us throughout the day some key players in the Auckland Governance of the future to assist our discussions, such as Nick Main and Sir Ron Carter, Stephen Tindall ..."
Bob Harvey email to mayors, 9.30am April 3

"Sounds more like elitist bullshit to me Bob ... it was after the hair-brained (sic) scheming of those amateurs which encouraged the failed mayoral coup ..."
Mike Lee email to Bob Harvey, 11.22am April 3

- NZ Herald

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