Deborah Coddington
Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Keep politics out of local elections

Len Brown. Photo / Janna Dixon
Len Brown. Photo / Janna Dixon

That choking sound is me eating the words I wrote earlier this year when I called Len Brown a serial trougher, not fit to be in office, after spending up large on his council credit card.

That said, I knew John Banks would lose. Thanks to John Key, we're now accustomed to consensus politics and, interestingly, it's Labour-affiliated Len Brown who is more like Key than Banks.

Banks is just too right wing National Party for Auckland because people want progress. Rightly or wrongly, they perceive Brown will appoint committee chairs less along party lines and more on the ability to get people together and make progress.

After all, wasn't the Supercity conceived because Auckland's mayors were always squabbling?

But Banks can't stop his sniping. Witness the Close Up debate, in which he said he didn't want to replicate the disaster of South Auckland all over the city.

Which brings me to another reason Banks lost: his close association with the architect of this Supercity, Rodney Hide.

Aucklanders had only just accepted, some very reluctantly, their fate as ratepayers in the largest Australasian metropolis when it was revealed that the minister foisting the Supercity on them had known that one of his MPs had stolen a dead baby's identity to forge a passport, had been convicted of assault, and had all the while behaved in a most hypocritical manner.

Both Brown and Banks waged extraordinary campaigns - Brown came back from the aforementioned credit card scandal and Banks fronted up to adverse publicity over his son's involvement in James Webster's alcohol-related death.

Hopefully, Banks' loss will also mark the end of the old-school C&R. In fact, isn't it time we abandoned this whole left/right divide in local body elections?

It seems such an anachronism and so divisive. I visited my Bowalley Rd friend, Chris Trotter, for a lesson on why, in the larger cities at least, we cling to it (with a few independents).

After the Great Depression, before social welfare became central government's responsibility, it was important that Labour take control of local government so it could look after the poor through low-cost housing. Back then, Dunedin and Christchurch particularly were both captured by Labour.

Later in Auckland, the right established Citizens & Ratepayers to keep the left at bay, so C&R began life as a negative (run out of the Northern Club, according to that mine of political information, the late Graeme Hunt). And it appears the striped-suit brigade still hasn't found forward gear.

AT LEAST the presidential-style campaigns have upped voter turnout in cities, apart from Wellington where it's risen only a fraction.

Why is that? Boring. Voters didn't bother because they thought no one could beat current mayor Kerry Prendergast, even though many feel Wellington deserves better.

It's a mystery what happened to Prendergast. About two years ago she seemed to lose heart and actually said she wouldn't stand again - then she changed her mind.

While she could never be accused of vivaciousness, she was nevertheless a steady pair of hands. Now she behaves like a duchess inoculated with entitle-itus, whining at anyone who criticises her loopy ideas, like the Wellywood sign or legalised tagging.

Prendergast has a few days to wait to see if she will get another chance in the top job; it's a close call.

Also, when polled on October 4, she firmly opposed a Wellington Supercity amalgamating nine territorial authorities. But two days later, said Wellington could have its own Supercity by 2013 because nine territorial authorities were too many.

Supercity Wellington here we come. Or not.

- Herald on Sunday

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