Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown forwarded councillors an email on Thursday afternoon that called them “dip s***s”, after he publicly criticised some of them in a shambolic invite-only press conference.
Several councillors have responded in comments to the Herald.
Councillor Alf Filipaina from Manukau said Brown’s action was “a sign of desperation”. He added, “I wouldn’t do that. It’s really unbecoming.”
On Thursday morning, Brown took aim at councillors who don’t support his proposal to sell Auckland Council shares in Auckland International Airport. At a meeting at Auckland Transport’s headquarters, he called them “financially illiterate”.
The Herald has seen an email sent by Brown to all councillors that afternoon, which says, “On behalf of Mayor Wayne Brown, please find attached – Emails received today – Feedback on Mayoral Proposal for Auckland Council’s Annual Budget 2023-24.”
Attached to the email is a PDF of a collection of critical and insulting comments aimed at councillors who do not support Brown’s budget.
“Can l ask which of the dip s*** councillors are against the sale of the airport. Shame you can’t kick there [sic] ass as that’s where there [sic] brains are. Keep up your good work Mayor Brown. Regards Jim.”
“I have been watching your battle with the entrenched management of the Auckland council, and you seem to be winning. To get rid of the airport shares which are highly inflated, like everything in New Zealand, would be a coup for you, and a great part to take down the cities [sic] deficit,” said an email from Stephen.
“The next round of champagne & smoked salmon is on me!” said Roger. “Keep doing what you are doing ‐ Auckland needs you now more than ever!”
“I only wish Wellington could have a right‐wing mayor instead of a lightweight greenie who loves handbags, and we’re stuck with Grant Robertson MP who squanders money wholesale.”
Albany councillor John Watson, whom Brown attacked by name on Thursday, said he hadn’t read the mayor’s email or its attachments. “I’m engaged with other communications that are a little more relevant than what may or may not be coming out of the mayor’s office.”
Maungakiekie-Tāmaki councillor Josephine Bartley has also been the target of criticism by the mayor. She said, “I wondered what was the point. If it’s to make us do what he wants, then it doesn’t work.
“It’s not a good way to get your point across, or to make us look at it without all this noise. He’s just added noise. We’re supposed to make decisions on behalf of our city and this isn’t helping.”
Waitakere councillor Shane Henderson said he had not decided about the share sale yet. On the mayor’s email, he said, “I don’t think it made much difference either way. But it’s not news that some people support the mayor.”
Whau councillor Kerrin Leoni, a sale opponent, said, “It’s highly inappropriate to send councillors emails like this, particularly with abusive comments included. The mayor needs to show leadership at this time and work with the councillors who have been elected by Aucklanders, not engage in attack politics.”
She added, “This is not the time to send degrading emails but ... to achieve an agreed consensus on the budget by the majority of councillors.”
North Shore councillor Chris Darby, who is thought to oppose the sale, said, “I saw that [the mayor’s email]. I probably just filed it. I wouldn’t say I was getting used to the mayor’s modus operandi but I want to get on with the substantive issues of the budget.”
Franklin councillor Andy Baker supports the mayor’s new budget and said he “wasn’t too bothered” by the email. “We always get emails that say, ‘Good on you,’ and others that say, ‘I’m never going to vote for you again.’”
He said the feedback he was getting was strongly in support of the shares sale.
Deputy mayor Desley Simpson, who also supports the budget, would not comment directly on the mayor’s email. She said, “I hope councillors will come to the table next week focused on the problem we have and the solutions the mayor has put up. We need to make a decision that is right for Aucklanders.”
One of the email attachments forwarded to councillors by the mayor said, “Keep up the good work and your attacks on the left‐wing media ‐ they are drongos”
TVNZ, Newshub and Stuff journalists and camera crews were all prohibited from attending the mayor’s meeting on Thursday morning. The Herald and RNZ were allowed in but could not live-stream the event, supposedly because they had “not put in a request beforehand”. The ruckus continued as Brown began his speech, before the mayor’s chief of staff, Max Hardy, overruled his media team and allowed live-streaming and everyone from the media into the meeting.
Brown used the meeting to outline his revised budget proposal. In response to a record 40,000-plus public submissions, he now proposes to increase residential rates by a net average 6.7 per cent (about the rate of inflation) and not make big cuts to services, while plugging an existing $375 million budget hole.
As in his original plan, he says the only way to do all this is to sell the airport shares. This would allow council to lower its debt level, saving about $100m a year in interest costs. That is considerably more than the expected dividends the council will receive if it keeps the shares.
“Having explored all the other options, there is only one way to keep rates within inflation and that involves selling the airport shares or cuts will come back and rates will rise,” Brown said.
But he acknowledged he does not have the numbers. Some councillors argue for higher debt levels, and/or higher rates. Some want the cuts to proceed. Some say they want none of the “bad” outcomes.
There are 20 councillors and the mayor, each with one vote. Currently, the share-sale split is thought to be 12-9 against the sale. The vote is next Thursday.