Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Len Brown's report card

Len Brown has some patchy results in his Mayor of Auckland report card. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Len Brown has some patchy results in his Mayor of Auckland report card. Photo / Kellie Blizard

Promises, promises: How Brown has fared on his 2010 election pledges


To be Mayor for all of Auckland.

Brown has done an outstanding job bringing Auckland and all of its communities together under the Super City. He has fostered a sense of inclusiveness and devoted big chunks of time in the community with regular Mayor in the Chair sessions and public meetings. The move from eight councils to one has gone smoothly. At City Hall he has encouraged a consensual style across the disparate political hues, but is not there yet with devolving more functions and resources to the 21 local boards and getting the best out of the seven council-controlled organisations.

He says: "You can love your local community but get a sense you are part of an overarching thing that is Auckland."

Score: 9/10


Build the city rail loop in 5-7 years, rail to the airport in 10 years and rail to the North Shore, via a new harbour crossing, in 15 years.

Rail to the airport and the North Shore have been quietly put on the back-burner while Brown focuses on the city rail loop. Progress is being made on designating the route and buying properties to build stations but National cabinet ministers are unconvinced about the value of the project. Brown, however, is adamant the centrepiece of his mayoralty will be completed 2021 with ratepayer, taxpayer and new funding sources, such as tolls.

He says: "I'm very pleased with progress thus far. (Buying land and securing the route) is further than anyone has got with this project in 70 years."

Score: 4/10


Not to sell strategic public assets.

The council has sold about $80 million of non-strategic assets - mostly surplus properties - but Brown has remained staunchly opposed to the sale of "strategic" airport and port shares, despite calls to do so to pay for costly transport and other projects. The assets, he says, provide a very good income stream to offset rates.

He says: "I'm happy to debate (asset sales) anytime, any place and have."

Score: 10/10


Roll out Manukau City Council's policy of free swimming pools across
the region.

The council's 29 swimming pools have been made free for under-16s, but Brown sees this as an interim position with the over 65s pushing for free access and free pools for all in due course.

He says: "It became evident very early on in council... it was going to become impossible for me to get the numbers around the table."

Score: 7/10


Live issues: Several tricky questions have confronted Brown in his first term.

Relationship with Wellington.

Government ministers have not been afraid to wade into Auckland issues. Murray McCully stepped in to take control after the Rugby World Cup Fiasco, slaying the myth of a single, all-powerful mayor for Auckland.

Transport Ministers Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee have poured cold water on the rail loop; Housing Minister Nick Smith and Environment Minister Amy Adams have threatened Government intervention to free up land for housing.

Apart from McCully, who made Brown look weak, the attacks have strengthened the mayor's case for the rail loop and a controlled release of land in the eyes of most Aucklanders. Brown has taken the punches and gone down the diplomatic road of working behind the scenes in the belief that the case for the rail loop et al will become overwhelming.

He says: (On the Government saying no to the rail loop) "The people of Auckland will only take that for so long."

Score: 4/10


Auckland Plan/Unitary Plan

The creation of a 30-year blueprint for the city (Auckland Plan) and a single planning rulebook (unitary plan) to implement has been a big focus for Brown. The mayor has called on his instincts and years of tapping into communities foreshadow a new way of life while retaining the spirit and essence of the city. The compact city model includes more high-rise and small-size apartments in towns and suburbs and building 160,000 new homes in rural areas around Warkworth, Silverdale, Kumeu and Pukekohe. The big vision Auckland Plan was greeted warmly, but the unitary plan, where the rubber hits the road, has met a mixed reaction and still has a long way to run.

He says: "We are in danger of agreeing with each other. This is something the country could scarcely believe would happen."

Score: 6/10


Introducing a single rating system across Auckland

Brown inherited the poisoned chalice of merging eight rating systems into one,
resulting in big increases for some and decreases for others. New property revaluations and the political decision for a low uniform annual charge that penalised high-value property owners made the exercise more difficult for ratepayers to understand. Brown credits the Government for allowing big increases to be phased in over three years. He fronted the lion's den at St Heliers in the eastern suburbs where the increases were biggest. He copped some grief, but most people see the underlining fairness of paying the same rates wherever they live in Auckland.

He says: "There were times I thought this could blow the Super City apart."

Score: 8/10


Ports of Auckland industrial dispute

Brown infuriated traditional supporters on the left - he is a long-time member of the Labour Party - for refusing to take sides with the Maritime Union during the most bitter dispute on the council-owned wharves since 1951. His actions led to a lamington attack at Auckland University, but praise from others for not wading in. He adopted a "really difficult" neutral position, keeping communication open with the union and ports company. The dispute is still resolved and Brown's calls for both sides to accept the recommendations of a facilitator have fallen on deaf ears.

He says: "I remain very hopeful we remain very close to resolving this."

Score: 4/10


SkyCity convention centre

This is another issue where Brown has been accused of "fence-sitting" - by Labour and Green MPs - on a controversial issue where economic benefits rub up against social pitfalls. The mayor was quick to extol the economic benefits of an international convention centre built by SkyCity but meek measures to minimise harm from more pokie machines to pay the bill.

He says: "We have high levels of unemployment amongst youth and many of those will be employed through that new convention centre."

Score: 4/10


OVERALL SCORE: 6/10

- NZ Herald

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