Ex-mayor 'deflated' by minor position

By Bernard Orsman

George Wood. Photo / Supplied
George Wood. Photo / Supplied

The Super City is only 10 days old, but councillor George Wood has spat the dummy about the relatively minor job given to him by Mayor Len Brown.

The former North Shore Mayor and senior policeman said he was "somewhat deflated" to be told by Mr Brown he would chair the community safety forum when he wanted a public transport role.

He wondered if he was being sidelined for going public on the "crummy levels of public transport" in Otara - launching pad for the political career of Mr Brown. the the former Manukau Mayor.

In February, Mr Wood compared the Otara bus station with a prison exercise yard and hoped it was not the standard of community facility that Mr Brown intended for the rest of Auckland.

"It worries me what could happen if the Manukau standards of mediocrity were replicated across the rest of the region," Mr Wood said.

Mr Wood is a member of the right-leaning Citizens & Ratepayers ticket, which supported Mr Brown's main Super City rival, John Banks.

When Mr Brown assigned committee jobs, the five C&R councillors missed out on top roles. Mr Wood, whose ticket has questioned the affordability of Mr Brown's rail projects, was overlooked for the top transport job.

The job went d to former Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, whose number one priority is to "support the mayor in expanding rail as soon as possible".

Yesterday, Mr Wood acknowledged his position on public transport probably contributed to him missing a senior transport role, although all was not lost. The mayor has since said all councillors could be members of the transport committee.

Mr Brown declined to respond to Mr Wood's criticism, except to say that after talking to him and considering his experience he had appointed him chair of the community safety forum.

A spokeswoman for Mr Brown said Mr Wood had expressed interest in working in spatial planning, transport and community safety and could be involved in those areas under a committee membership proposal he was putting to the council.

Mr Brown valued working closely with people across political boundaries and around the region, she said.

Mr Wood said that in the three years he had been out of office, he had taken a real interest in public transport.

"What I have seen in particular areas, especially in the southern suburbs isn't a pretty sight," he said.

He believed his institutional knowledge built up as Mayor of North Shore for nine years should be used to look at how public transport was organised and funded.

"My highest priority is to find out where the $143.5 million ratepayer and road-user subsidy to public transport for this year is spent."

He also questioned whether the country could afford tunnelling for the $3.2 billion Waterview and Northwestern motorway project, and why Victoria Park was being tunnelled when a new viaduct alongside the existing one could be built for a third of the cost.

His emphasis on improving existing public transport is different to that of Mr Brown, who has made a central city rail loop, rail to the airport and rail to the North Shore his top transport priorities.

- NZ Herald

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