Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown says he did not forward councillors a string of abusive emails that called them “dip s***s”, saying they were sent by staff “in a fit of excitement”.
The emails arrived in councillors’ inboxes after a shambolic meeting on Thursday where Brown took aim at councillors who do not support his sale of the council shares in Auckland Airport, calling them “financially illiterate”.
“I neither wrote the emails, nor sent them, nor even know my staff had done so in a fit of excitement,” Brown said in a message to the Herald today.
His head of communications, Kate Gourdie, backed this up saying “a member of the team that has control of his inbox” sent the email to councillors. She would not name the person responsible.
Attached to the email is a PDF of a collection of 18 critical and insulting comments aimed at councillors who do not support Brown’s budget and the media.
“Can l ask which of the dip s*** councillors are against the sale of the airport? Shame you can’t kick their ass as that’s where there [sic] brains are. Keep up your good work Mayor Brown. Regards Jim,” said one.
The attack on councillors who do not support offloading the airport shares to help plug a $325 million budget hole and keep household rate increases at 6.7 per cent (rate of inflation) has been called a “sign of desperation”, “highly inappropriate” and a “blitzkrieg attack” by stunned councillors.
Waitakere councillor Ken Turner today said that, like himself, Brown blurts out crazy stuff he hasn’t thought through at times, but the mayor is practical and brilliant at times and “has my full support”.
“He’s a disruptor and right now we need a disruptor,” said Turner.
But the first-term councillor said just because he supports the mayor, it doesn’t mean he will vote for everything he says.
Turner does not support the airport sale, saying the clear message coming out of West Auckland is not to sell the shares.
He cited a slip on his road in West Auckland on Monday that brought down the equivalent of 200 six-wheeler truckloads of material that is being moved to north of Waimuku at a cost he believes of $200,000, when it could cost $20,000.
“Selling the shares will release a whole bunch of money and it’s going to be sucked up like a sponge by this sort of unreasonable action. My job is to fix that, not sell the airport shares,” said Turner.
Wayne Walker, one of four councillors Brown called out on Thursday to keep a pledge they signed to hold rates to inflation, said the mayor is not building the collegiality and cooperation he needs to get the budget across the line.
Walker agreed with Turner that the culture of over-spending has to be addressed before considering a sale of the shares and said other alternatives should be looked at, including using a $1.25 billion budget to upgrade and replace assets, known as depreciation, and increasing revenue streams at venues like the zoo and Auckland Art Gallery.
Other councillors singled out were Mike Lee, Christine Fletcher and John Watson, who said the attempt to unleash vitriol on some councillors was distasteful.
“As far as the shares go I’m endeavouring to keep an open mind, but it doesn’t mean just capitulating to the kind of blitzkrieg attack that has been launched with the imperative to sell the shares and very quickly,” Watson said.
“There is a great degree of distrust with the way this has been administered and the contestability of the advice that has been presented.”
Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina from Manukau has said Brown’s action was “a sign of desperation”, adding: “It’s really unbecoming”.
Maungakiekie-Tāmaki councillor Josephine Bartley, who has also been the target of criticism by the mayor, posted an email on social media sent to the mayor with the message “since we’re sharing emails n all”.
The email, from an airport shareholder and airline captain, said “I’m sick to my back teeth of the petulant and childish manner in which you conduct yourself. It’s deeply unbecoming of a holder of such an office.”
Yesterday, Bartley criticised Brown’s way of getting his point across, saying he is just adding noise.
“We’re supposed to make decisions on behalf of our city and this isn’t helping,” she said.