Risk of stalemate in new council

By Cassandra Mason

Linda Cooper
Linda Cooper

The balance of power at Auckland Council has tipped from left to right for the second term of Mayor Len Brown, a shift that's being compared with the United States Government deadlock.

With the election of new councillors Denise Krum and Linda Cooper the number of centre-right councillors has jumped from eight to 10, while their left-leaning counterparts dropped from nine to seven. The number of centrist councillors remained unchanged at three.

Political scientist Bryce Edwards warned Auckland Council was at risk of a standoff similar to the United States Government shutdown.

"There you have a Democrat president locked in battle with the Republican-led house. So effectively the council could end up with something similar over the next three years."

The shift to the right could be a "recipe for stalemate" in which the centre-left mayor's hands could be tied on several issues.

"Len Brown's going to be less able to get his way over the next three years, that's obvious."

Newly elected Waitakere councillor Linda Cooper said the change in balance would be "interesting".

Centre-right Cooper replaced Sandra Coney, who retired from council after 12 years. "Richard Northey's gone, Sandra Coney's gone, so that's a fundamental change," she said.

The shift would hopefully bring some changes, especially to housing affordability, Cooper said. "People are hurting."

National Party member Denise Krum, who ousted long-serving councillor and former Labour MP Richard Northey to win a seat in Maungakiekie-Tamaki ward, said she intended to hold the Supercity mayor to account.

"People need to see more value for their money - where are my rates going? What's it being spent on?

"We see rates going up, a lot of things going up. Do we feel that we're getting a return on our investment?" Krum has criticised a lack of public consultation over the Unitary Plan and soaring debt levels and called for more transparency and accountability.

The 42-year-old businesswoman campaigned on wanting to put a "hand brake" on Brown's political programme.

But Brown said he wasn't particularly concerned about the new council make-up.

"I don't see much of a change in the left-right balance. I think people are coming from all sorts of interesting political backgrounds and views."

Councillors should put their political differences aside when they walked through the door and work together, he said.

"My door will be open to every single one of them. I think that we have the potential of working as strongly in this council as we did in the last, together.

"There will always be differences, but I think we'll be fine."

- Herald on Sunday

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