Mayor Len Brown's 'bevy of heavies'

By Wayne Thompson

Concern over cost of Len Brown's security detail at opening of Panmure railway station.

Questions have been raised about the level of security surrounding Auckland Mayor Len Brown during his first public appearance of the year.

Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer said ratepayers should be concerned at seeing a "bevy of heavies" shadowing the Mayor at the opening of the new $17 million Panmure Transport Interchange on Saturday.

Around 2000 people attended the opening, including a handful of protesters, some carrying banners with messages referring to his two-year-affair that was exposed last year. During Mr Brown's speech, he was then heckled and one man called him a disgrace while another used a duck caller.

Protester Dick Cuthbert, who has been to many demonstrations over the years and had come to voice his disapproval of Mr Brown's leadership, said he was surprised by the level of security.

"I was amazed by the heavies at what was not a controversial event - it was a much-awaited bus-train station. It's unprecedented.

"I put this down as a mayor terrified of the real public and how they will respond to his carrying on."

Mr Brewer said the protesters did not justify security being there.

"I don't believe ratepayers should be funding security guards to surround the Mayor on such occasions. A few hecklers and peaceful demonstrators exercising their democratic right is no justification," he said.

"It's an unprecedented sight to have a New Zealand mayor surrounded by publicly-funded heavies to open a suburban railway station."

However, Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board chairman Simon Randall said he wasn't aware of cordon of security around the mayor, as he walked among the crowd.

Mr Brown's office also said in a statement last night the Mayoral Office did not have a security budget and would not expect anything more than normal arrangements to be provided at events he attends.

The mayor greets members of the public at the Panmure station. Photo / Natalie Slade
The mayor greets members of the public at the Panmure station. Photo / Natalie Slade

A spokeswoman for the council's transport agency, Auckland Transport, said the agency hired seven security guards for the function between 10am to 3pm at a rate of $20.50 an hour for each.

She added it was standard operational procedure at the opening of a station because of safety requirements and especially when a Government minister was present, as was Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse.

Mr Brewer said the money spent on the guards was operational spending which would have been better put towards improving transport, but he added extra security was another cost ratepayers may need to get used to in view of a huge police and private security presence at the Town Hall for the inauguration of the council.

- additional reporting Lincoln Tan

- NZ Herald

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