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Defeated but defiant: right wing's new faces hint at old-style politics

By Bernard Orsman

Citizens & Ratepayers co-leader Christine Fletcher. Photo / Dean Purcell
Citizens & Ratepayers co-leader Christine Fletcher. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Citizens & Ratepayers political group has elected Christine Fletcher and Jami-Lee Ross as co-leaders, but it is unclear if the ticket will be team players in the Super City under Mayor Len Brown.

The right-leaning group had high hopes for 10 or 11 seats on the Auckland Council under the leadership of John Banks, but had to be content with five seats and the left's Mr Brown snaring the mayoralty.

Following Saturday's poor campaign, where C&R did not have a leader, the caucus met on Sunday to find a replacement for former leader David Hay, who retired at the local body elections.

It is ironic that Mrs Fletcher has replaced Mr Hay in his old heartland of Mt Roskill. The liberal Mrs Fletcher and Mr Hay, a conservative Christian, regularly clashed during Mrs Fletcher's 1998-2001 term as Auckland City mayor.

Mr Ross, who at 24 is the youngest face on the council, is a talented, third-term councillor.

However, he is cast in the C&R partisan mould and led a strong attack on Mr Brown over his council credit-card use as mayor of Manukau City.

Mrs Fletcher and Mr Ross said the C&R caucus was determined to "try and work collaboratively with the incoming mayor and to offer support where this serves the interests of the people of Auckland".

They said they were willing to meet Mr Brown to discuss issues in common, but were coy about their role in a left-leaning council led by Mr Brown, a member of the Labour Party.

C&R has a long history of partisan politics in Auckland. When Dick Hubbard toppled Mr Banks in 2004, C&R turned feral on the novice politician. It operates a strict party whip, and candidates must sign a loyalty statement saying that if elected they will "abide by the majority decisions of any caucus meetings of the elected members".

Mrs Fletcher expressed a desire for the Auckland Council to develop a new culture of working collaboratively, but would not say if C&R was going to accept senior roles under Mr Brown.

Mr Ross said C&R needed to sit down with Mr Brown to see where it could fit into the new world, but did not rule out C&R working in opposition to Mr Brown.

"We campaigned as a team, we were elected as a team and we have shared policy and shared principles that we stand for and we will be working together as a team on the Auckland Council.

"It could fall that the council ends up being a left-right council ... or it could be a new council where all 21 of us work very well together," said Mr Ross, adding he would prefer an inclusive council.

Right-leaning Rodney Mayor Penny Webster spoke out against partisan politics on the Auckland Council. Mrs Webster, who won the Rodney seat, said councillors had been given a job to do and the way to do that was to work together.

"We don't have to agree on everything, but there will have to be give and take. I like to work on an issue-by-issue basis," she said.

- NZ Herald

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