Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Len Brown, post-affair: 'I need to redeem myself'

The mayor talks to Bernard Orsman.

Auckland mayor admits he has a steep job to redeem himself in the eyes of Auckland voters. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland mayor admits he has a steep job to redeem himself in the eyes of Auckland voters. Photo / Richard Robinson

How is Len Brown - the mayor, the family man - one week after the scandal broke?

He has seen better days. It has been particularly traumatic but hugely traumatic for my wife and children. I'm working through those issues with the family from day to day. On top of that I'm keeping focused on the job and ensuring we are moving forward.

You have given only one interview on Campbell Live and a stand-up this afternoon. Is that enough to make amends with the people of Auckland?

I have to make amends with the 1.5 million Aucklanders but the people I have to most make amends with are my wife and children. This is a private matter and that is where my primary focus is and I'm sure that anyone out there who has had to deal with difficult issues in their life, particularly when they have been stupid, will understand that is where my real focus needs to be. I will be out there and around the community as I always am, have been over the last weekend and people will continue to interview me, question me, but most importantly the people on the street will see me.

Do you plan to make a public statement to council?

I have met with all the councillors, individually and now together as a group. I think the councillors are by and large universally of the view we need to move on. They are obviously regretful and I'm certainly regretful of what has happened in terms of timing of this disclosure. Now we are firmly focused, and need to be firmly focused, that Aucklanders and your own [Herald] polls have shown they want us to get on with the job of what we are elected for. I will do that and there will be many instances, not just one, in the days ahead when we will reflect on it. The vast bulk of council have said, "Len, it is a personal issue. You work it out with your wife and family", and make sure you continue to lead us with your energy and your vision.

How does the affair reflect on your integrity as Mayor of Auckland?

People will have to make their own judgments on that. I'm going to be a broken record here, but it's personal. The person I have affronted most grievously and personally is my wife and that is where my sole focus is to address her concerns and try and rebuild and redeem myself in the eyes of my wife and my children and my broader family and in due course the people of Auckland. They have seen me lead in this city and gave me very, very strong support in the last election. Please judge me by how I have been as a leader and I would hope to be that. The second part of that is am I on a journey to being a better man? You bet I am!

Did you ever consider resigning?

When you are in the middle of this type of issue and the extreme focus brought to bear on me and the huge damage that some of the factual disclosure has done to me and my wife and the humiliation to us all, of course you are going to sit back and say is this worth it. Right from the start my wife and family and supporters have been very strongly of the view that this is something we should work out if we can and I should carry on the job I have as the mayor and carry on the vision I have for this city and work out the personal issues. We are spending a lot of time together and we are talking a lot.

The Herald-DigiPoll survey found 51% of Aucklanders think you should stay on as mayor, but still 39% think you should resign. Is that a sufficient mandate to stay on?

I don't think this is about mandates. We had a recent election and there was a reasonably high element that thought I did a good job in the last three years and wanted to carry on that good job. Aucklanders generally feel we are going in the right direction. That is the thing they are most interested in.

The survey also showed that 62.7% of Aucklanders thought the relationship reflected badly on your character. Is that a fair assessment?

An important part of what I now have to confront is to redeem myself in the eyes of my wife and family and then generally in the eyes of Aucklanders. They have had a general view of me, some part of which has been damaged.

Bevan Chuang former mistress of Auckland Mayor Len Brown.
Bevan Chuang former mistress of Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

Is it the case that in future you are going to judge yourself on your personal character as well as your role as Mayor of Auckland?

History will make its own judgment calls, let alone Aucklanders in terms of me. I'm not overly worried about how things will be judged in the years ahead. I'm really just focused on being able to spend a bit of time with my family to right that particular wrong and to show them love and respect in a way that clearly I wasn't focused on before. In among all of that that I be given the opportunity to carry on what I regard as being hugely critical work for Auckland and its future in transforming this city into a truly great international city. I think Aucklanders, generally, want to see me get on and do that.

Was it an abuse of power to provide a reference for Bevan Chuang?

It was the very early stages of us knowing each other. I have provided many references in supports of lots and lots of friends and people that I know. The letter of support I wrote was a reasonable letter. I tend to be quite positive in my writing for the many people I write references for. It wasn't a reference that was requested or provided for that was out of the norm. It was, for me, a fairly typical reference done at a time when, quite frankly, we hadn't known each other all that long.

Do you think the disclosure of the affair was a deliberate political smear campaign?

For all of those involved in this I bear none of them ill will. I am the master of my own fate and it was my decision to basically open up the opportunity for someone. I'm having to pay for that particularly stupid piece of poor judgment, as are others around me and my family. I'm not going to say anything other than that about other people who have been involved. It is for others to make inquiries, but I'm not going to contribute to that debate.

When and how did you become aware that the affair would be made public?

No one told me it was going to be made public. We became aware through connections, who I'm not prepared to go into, that someone or other was talking about it. At that time I told my wife. That was towards the end of the campaign. Having the issue raised in a public environment meant for me it was critical I talk to Shan first.

Did anyone in the Brown camp or associated with the Brown camp send threatening text messages to Chuang and others?

Not that I'm aware. It certainly wasn't anything I had anything to do with at all.

Is there anything more to come out that people need to know about?

There had better not be. I have made full disclosure with regard to this matter and it has been horrendous for my family, and that is it.

Have there been other affairs?

There is a matter on record in terms of my first marriage but I am not going to go into that ... suffice to say that is a matter that has been acknowledged. It was reported. Not that I'm aware [in recent times].

Do you plan to reappoint Chuang to the ethnic people's advisory panel?

No.

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