Auckland's political right is fragmented and facing failure in the Super City elections, warns former mayor John Banks.
Vic Crone, John Palino and Mark Thomas are splitting the centre-right vote for the mayoralty while a new National Party-backed Auckland Future ticket has emerged - to run a separate campaign from its long-established Communities & Residents (C&R) stablemate.
Banks, who has tasted victory and defeat at Auckland local body elections, says it is impossible for the centre-right to win the mayoralty with three mayoral candidates.
"The centre-right needs to sit down and clearly identify a candidate of preferred choice. There is simply not enough momentum from the centre-right to overcome the fight between the three candidates.
"[Labour MP] Phil Goff is getting some serious momentum that is going to be difficult to catch," Banks says.
Crone is pushing the message that her leadership skills, fresh ideas and business background make her the strongest centre-right candidate in a two-horse race with Labour stalwart Phil Goff.
Palino, whose 2013 mayoral campaign became embroiled in the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang/Luigi Wewege sex scandal, has no intention of stepping down.
There is talk of party pressure coming on Mark Thomas to stand down, but the Orakei Local Board deputy chairman is showing no signs of abandoning a relentless tour of meetings and events around Auckland.
Thomas has tried hard to gain the attention and endorsement of National Party figures, but the party is giving him the cold shoulder in favour of Crone.
Bill Ralston, a former TV3 political editor standing as an independent in the Waitemata and Gulf ward, agrees that at least one, if not two, mayoral candidates have to pull out.
The centre-right, he says, is coming from behind and needs to start pumping out more policy and treading shoe leather.
Two centre-right stalwarts told the Weekend Herald National needs to abandon a long-held position of keeping out of local government and put up a National Party team.
"That is the only way it will work. The current situation is a shambles," one National Party member said.
It is a direct contrast to the national situation where a comfortable Government is seeing little challenge from the Labour Opposition.
There is simply not enough momentum from the centre-right to overcome the fight between the three candidates.
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According to insiders at a political breakfast meeting at the Stamford Hotel in mid-February, Prime Minister John Key rated Goff as the likely winner for the Auckland mayoralty race and believed the real battle will be in the make-up of the council.
But divisions on that front will be exposed next week when C&R open nominations for two slots in the Albert-Eden-Roskill ward. Auckland Future selected a young lawyer, Rob Harris, in March to contest the ward "with former mayor and longstanding councillor Chris Fletcher contesting the second seat", according to its press release.
Fletcher was furious at being linked to Auckland Future and said this week she is putting her name forward.
Auckland Future campaign boss Sue Wood and C&R president Karen Sherry maintain they have the Albert-Eden-Roskill issue under control and a good working relationship, despite a memorandum of understanding between the two tickets remaining unsigned.
Sherry says the two tickets are not living in each other's pockets, saying C&R had made it clear it would run candidates in its heartland of Orakei, Albert-Eden-Roskill and the Auckland District Health Board.
C&R members, she says, will decide if they want one or two candidates to run in Albert-Eden-Roskill. The centre-right got a boost this week with Crone and Auckland Future announcing a joint fiscal policy to tackle rates, waste and debt.
The move signals significant co-operation between Auckland Future and Crone on policy, says former National Party president Michelle Boag.
As well as Boag and Sue Wood - party president during Sir Robert Muldoon's tumultuous prime ministership - Auckland-based National Cabinet ministers Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith, National Party president Peter Goodfellow and Jo de Joux, National's campaign manager at the 2011 and 2014 elections, are backing Crone and Auckland Future.
C&R councillor Denise Krum has also jumped ship to Auckland Future, saying C&R had not fired at the first two Super City elections and it is time for a new vehicle.
"Things are coming along nicely," says Boag, who is hoping centre-right independents will sign up to the policy direction, accept team discipline and form a majority on council. Ralston has pledged support for the policy.
Kaye says her involvement stems from the need to evolve the political landscape under the Super City and build a group of fiscally responsible centre-right candidates.
She has become frustrated with centre-right councillors and National Party members, such as Linda Cooper, Bill Cashmore and Calum Penrose, consistently voting with Len Brown. "It's really important that people do know what people stand for," says Kaye.