Just 18 months ago, Victoria Crone was fizzing about her new role as Managing Director, NZ and New Markets, of accounting software giant Xero. A month into the job and she was enthusing on the company blog about "a fun and energy to this place that's infectious", and how "I love a company that eats its own dog food". She ended the entry: "Who wouldn't want to be part of this?"

On Monday it turned out that Ms Crone didn't. She wanted to be mayor of Auckland instead. She's walked out on the job where so recently, she'd "been overwhelmed by people's friendliness, energy, pride [and], willingness to help", into the bear pit that is local government politics.

You have to wonder how on earth the two grand dames of the National Party, Michelle Boag and Sue Wood, who came knocking and pleading, managed to pull it off. Cordon bleu dog food, perhaps?

You have to give her points for resigning her highly paid day job to pursue this new adventure. Though her sudden loss of salary will be cushioned by the $126,500 base annual stipend she's about to start receiving following her election last week to the board of Contact Energy. At that meeting, she told shareholders if anything were to happen, like becoming mayor perhaps, Contact would remain her "top priority".


At her campaign launch she said it was important that "experienced leaders of my generation step up". She added that "not being a serial politician is actually the biggest asset I bring to Auckland". Her first point is a good one. Auckland local politics could do with some 42-year-old "new blood". But her naive comment about "serial" politicians reminds me of former prime minister Keith Holyoake's much repeated advice to tenderfoot MPs, to "breathe through their noses" from the sidelines until they've learned the ropes.

The serial politician jibe was obviously directed at her main mayoral rival, former Labour Party leader Phil Goff, but it also smears the 20 existing councillors - most of whom will be planning to contest next year's election - and every other professional politician.

True, we all enjoy taking pot shots at politicians. But to attack your rival for being experienced, and to claim your biggest asset is being ignorant of the political process, is perverse.

I'm guessing Ms Crone didn't sell herself to Contact Energy shareholders last week by proudly declaring her ignorance of the ways of the business world. Yet here we have her seeking support to become mayor of the Auckland Super City, the home of a third of New Zealanders, by bragging about her political inexperience.

At the launch she revealed it by noting "many Aucklanders, even our students, are really worried about how they're going to be able to afford a home in the future", as though that was something an Auckland mayor had any control over.

As for saying "our city is facing huge imminent growth along with no plan that addresses and embraces what's coming", where has she been for the past five years?

As cereal king Dick Hubbard soon discovered after being elected mayor of the old Auckland City, political leadership is very different from business leadership.

Around the council table, the mayor has one vote among 21. She has to learn the skill of herding cats, dishing out cat food, to borrow Ms Crone's metaphor, in the form of committee chairmanships and the like, to maintain a majority. It's very different from the dictatorship of being an MD. Of course people are friendly to the company boss. You crack a joke, employees tend to laugh, because you have the casting vote on their careers.


Call me old-school but like Sir Keith, I prefer my leaders, business and political, to have served an apprenticeship.

If she had, she might have found that much of the power she seeks is illusory. In setting up the Super City, Act leader Rodney Hide and her National Government allies carefully shifted much of the decision- making from the politicians to the chief executive and mis-named "council-controlled" organisations. Perhaps she should have gone for the chief executive job instead when it came up around the time she chose Xero.