Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Battleground Auckland - Key match-ups to determine outcome of October's elections

In Auckland there are 468 candidates seeking votes from a pool of 1,050,000 enrolled voters. Photo / Brett Phibbs
In Auckland there are 468 candidates seeking votes from a pool of 1,050,000 enrolled voters. Photo / Brett Phibbs

In seven weeks, the Super City will have a new mayor, council and local boards.

After two terms of the amalgamated council, Mayor Len Brown is calling it a day.

This follows a rocky second term that started with a sex scandal and ended with a new planning blueprint that will shape the city for decades.

In between, Aucklanders stopped the port expanding into the pristine Waitemata Harbour and work started on the city rail link.

Rates, debt and staff numbers rose beyond most people's comfort zone. The council's own research found just 15 per cent of Aucklanders are satisfied with its performance.

Against this background, 19 hopefuls have put their name in the ring to replace Brown and there's a battle between the left and right to gain control of the purse strings.

Here are some of the main battles to watch out for.

The mayoralty

The perennial Communist League, Auckland Legalise Cannabis and Christians Against Abortion are there. So, too, Chloe Swarbrick, in her early 20s, activist Penny Bright and former Green Party member David Hay.

But the real contest comes down to a handful of contestants: Labour MP Phil Goff on the left and businesswoman Vic Crone, cafe owner John Palino and Orakei Local Board member Mark Thomas on the right.

All four are standing on a similar platform of low rates, cutting fat and taking back control of council for ratepayers.

This week, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse took a swipe at the mayoral candidates, saying she was waiting for a little bit of vision and something brave. Hulse isn't standing for mayor.

Mayoral hopeful John Palino. Photo / Michael Craig
Mayoral hopeful John Palino. Photo / Michael Craig

Left v Right

After six years of a Brown-Hulse council, control is up for grabs.

The right is desperate to win a majority, but so far is making a hash of things.

The new Auckland Future ticket has picked a fight with Communities and Residents (C&R)'s Chris Fletcher, but is not standing candidates against staunch Brown supporters such as Penny Webster and Linda Cooper.

The ticket selected a candidate convicted in 2008 of stealing a dead baby's identity - the community worker later withdrew his affiliation and will stand as an independent. Another candidate was wrongly enrolled to stand against Auckland Future's only sitting councillor, Denise Krum.

All this is music to City Vision, the left ticket of Labour, Greens and community independents, which has been more unified and successful under the Super City than any Tory brand.

There are other tickets out there and plenty of candidates standing as independents. It pays to dig a little deeper to learn their political colours and intentions.

Ward contests Franklin

Three years ago, Howick councillors Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart and Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer were elected unopposed.

This time round, Franklin councillor Bill Cashmore is the only ward councillor elected unopposed. It will be a second term for the Orere farmer.

Mayoral hopeful Phil Goff. Photo / Nick Reed
Mayoral hopeful Phil Goff. Photo / Nick Reed


Wayne Walker and his running mate John Watson line up against former league coach Graham Lowe and Lisa Whyte.

Walker and Watson are an odd mix of lefty, green councillors representing a conservative ward. Hard-working and great campaigners, the pair won both seats in 2013 (Walker has been on council since 2010).

On that occasion there were three serious challengers. This time it is Lowe and Whyte, chair of the Upper Harbour Local Board and a member of Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, both standing under the Auckland Future banner.

Lowe's sporting fame and Whyte's broad profile pose a real threat to Walker and Watson.


This will be the third election Olympian Sir John Walker and former Papakura Mayor Calum Penrose have stood together. They have two wins from two and are hoping to make it three.

Walker's health has deteriorated in this term of council. He regularly nods off, has difficulty with walking and trouble speaking, but has put this down to medication he is on for Parkinson's disease.

He says he wouldn't be standing again if he felt he wasn't up to the job.

Daniel Newman, former chairman of the Manurewa Local Board, has been quietly preparing the ground to try to break the partnership.

Mayoral hopeful Vic Crone. Photo / Supplied
Mayoral hopeful Vic Crone. Photo / Supplied


City Vision's Cathy Casey and C&R's Christine Fletcher have had a stranglehold on this ward, which stretches from one end of the isthmus at Coyle Park in Pt Chevalier to Lynfield and Hillsborough on the Manukau Harbour.

This is the third election where the left and right have tried to win both seats.

This time round Auckland Future is putting up young lawyer Rob Harris against Fletcher and her C&R running mate Ben Lee.

Former C&R Auckland city councillor Greg McKeown is also standing as an independent.

Casey's running mate is Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes, who finished in fourth place in 2013 and is running again for the Local Board.

Waitemata and Gulf

Mike Lee planned to retire from politics this year until media personality Bill Ralston popped up.

Ralston, 63, decided it was time to give politics a crack and deal to the "dysfunctional council".

His right-leaning and National Party connections have put him on a collision course with the left-leaning Lee, who at 67 is disillusioned at how the Super City has panned out.

Both candidates are anti-establishment figures and their politics - Ralston is open to selling strategic assets, Lee is opposed - could determine the outcome in this, the most liberal of wards.

Waitemata stretches from Westmere to Parnell, including the CBD, and takes in Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands.

Also standing is Waitemata Local Board member Rob Thomas, who stood in 2013 and came a credible third.

Mayoral hopeful Mark Thomas. Photo / Supplied
Mayoral hopeful Mark Thomas. Photo / Supplied


Don Brash has injected himself into this contest by backing David Rankin "to get rid of Penny Hulse". Apparently Hulse, who oversaw the Unitary Plan, is to blame for Auckland's soaring house prices.

The deputy mayor, who stands under the banner "West at Heart", is a hugely popular figure. She won nearly 20,000 votes in 2013, nearly double the number of Linda Cooper, who won the second seat.

Cooper, who is active in the National Party, has hitched herself to Hulse and Brown this term.

Labour-Future West candidate Greg Presland, a member of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, has backing from a strong Labour team out west.

He is seeking to regain the seat vacated by Sandra Coney in 2013.

Rankin and Peter Chan, who received 7413 votes in 2013, offer an alternative to right-leaning voters.

Auckland Future is not standing a candidate.

The numbers

• In Auckland there are 468 candidates seeking votes from a pool of 1,050,000 enrolled voters.

• North Shore is the most contested ward, with 12 candidates seeking two seats, and 27 candidates are vying for seven seats on the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board.

• In 2013, Auckland ranked near the bottom of the country with a 35.5 per cent voter turnout, a sharp drop from 51 per cent in 2010.

The issues

• Transport and housing are the big issues in Auckland. Elsewhere Hamiltonians are debating a commuter train service to Auckland, and in Tauranga transport and council transparency are hot topics.

• Elections are also taking place for district health boards and licensing trusts.

• Postal voting begins on September 16 and closes at noon on October 8. For more information go to and click on "2016 Auckland Council Elections"

- NZ Herald

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