Editorial: Brown must go for the good of the Super City

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Auckland Mayor Len Brown has said he remains committed to Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has said he remains committed to Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

When news broke of the Mayor's two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, this newspaper suggested that if Len Brown's family could forgive him then the city should, too.

Two months on, that sentiment is no longer sustainable. An issue far more important than the mayor's private life is now at stake. Tomorrow, Auckland councillors will not only formally censure Mr Brown but begin a process designed to clip the wings of the mayoral office. If that happens, the Super City may no longer have a leader with the independent authority to drive things forward. The only means of avoiding that outcome is for Mr Brown to resign. He must go in the interests of Auckland and Aucklanders.

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Everything that has happened in the past few days underlines that conclusion. We have waited until the EY review was released, heard the mayor's explanations and apologies, and witnessed the councillors' response. There can be only one judgment.

The EY review into his conduct, commissioned by the council chief executive, did not condemn him outright. But nor did it save him. It did nothing to lessen the certainty that Mr Brown will remain a running gag at barbecues and Christmas gatherings around the city over coming weeks - and beyond. Going into next year, however, the joke will be on all of us if the Super City governance is compromised.

The corrosive nature of all this is compounded by doubts that remain and the questions still unanswered - not least in relation to the reference for a job at the Auckland Art Gallery that he provided for Ms Chuang, and his trip to Hong Kong. There is also the foolishness of his free night and upgrades at Sky City while he was advocating the national convention-centre deal.

The city's councillors are, naturally enough, disappointed at the mayor's behaviour. But their response is as short-sighted as it is ill-judged. They have chosen to mount an assault on his office. The real risk now is that some kind of oversight committee to control the mayor would drag Auckland back into partisan and parochial standoffs, the very state the Super City was designed to rectify. The absence of an independent mayor with strong powers would invite the left and right to revert to practices mercifully absent in the first Super City term.

Mr Brown has said he remains committed to Auckland. That cannot be contested. Nor can the skill he brought to overseeing the transition to the Super City. But matters have moved beyond his vision for Auckland. That vision is largely ingrained and accepted. His sweeping victory in the mayoral election confirmed as much. If he resigned, there must be a very good chance that a candidate promoting a similar vision would be elected.

Who that might be remains to be seen, but the next mayor must be able to lead assertively and independently.

As it stands, if Mr Brown stays he will be constrained by any council oversight committee. He is referred to widely and accurately as a lame duck but Auckland cannot let that characteristic be passed to whomever succeeds him in the mayoral office.

A change of face, voice and reputation will give Auckland a far better chance of fulfilling Mr Brown's ambitions for the city.

The affair and all the apologies are one thing but the lax accountability over grace, favour and entitlements and the potential emasculation of his office by the council leave little chance of him regaining the respect of Aucklanders.

Some of the prurient details of Mr Brown's affair with Ms Chuang probably ought to have been censored. He is about to be censured by the city's councillors. Now, it is surely time for him to come to his senses - and go.

Have your say. Email letters@nzherald.co.nz

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- NZ Herald

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