By ANNE BESTON


An Auckland political chief lost her $125,000-a-year job as voters took revenge for unpopular rate rises.

Dumped ARC chairwoman Gwen Bull said her support for a controversial rating system introduced in 2003, which pushed rates bills 100 per cent to 600 per cent higher in some Auckland suburbs, was behind her defeat in Manukau.

"I always felt I could end up paying the price for last year. I am disappointed, but that's politics," she said.

The woman taking Mrs Bull's seat, health manager and political novice Robyn Hughes, said the ARC ignored ratepayer fury.

"There has been a lack of democracy and the way that issue was handled stuck in the minds of voters," she said.

Ms Hughes, 50, stood on the anti-rates ticket Residents Action Movement, or RAM, but was the only one elected.

She was not a member of Socialist Worker, whose secretary, Grant Morgan, organised the ticket, but described herself as "left of centre".

A mother of two sons living in Mangere Bridge, Ms Hughes said she was "an acceptable face" for the more conservative voters in the east of the Manukau Ward.

The Rates Rebellion ticket, organised by Glenfield Ratepayers Association chairman David Thornton, failed to win any seats.

Jockeying for the ARC's top job has begun, with a vote due to be held in about a fortnight. Unlike a mayoralty, the chair's job at the ARC is decided by councillors.

ARC Auckland councillor Mike Lee, entering his fifth term, may have the numbers for the top job but potential rivals include newcomer and former North Shore City councillor Wyn Hoadley.

Mrs Hoadley, who has been in local politics for more than 20 years, is a former Takapuna City mayor and is chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology, a post that finishes at the end of the year.

"If I am voted into any leadership positions at the ARC, I would have time," she said.

Second-term councillor Craig Little realised his chance of finally taking the chair disappeared once the votes were counted.

"It appears the council has gone to the left-wingers," he said, picking Auckland councillor Mike Lee as frontrunner.

Mr Lee said the rates issue had ended the dominance of the ARC by "rural conservatives".

"I think voters wanted a more centre-left, progressive ARC and I think they've got that."

Other ARC councillors to lose their seats were Rodney representative Brian Smith and North Shore's Ian Bradley.

Mr Smith is replaced by Rodney District councillor and former Rodney deputy mayor Christine Rose, a 35-year-old interested in environmental issues.

Herald Feature: Local Vote 2004

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