Wayne Brown will get my vote for mayor. He clinched it with a comment to Simon Wilson in the Herald last week. Condemned for his attitude to visions, plans and public transport, Brown said, "Auckland Transport should be told they are there to serve the way we live, not change the way we live."
Seldom have I heard a candidate for any public office these days challenge so succinctly the notion that the only possible response to climate change is to give up things we like, especially motorised personal transport.
To believe this you have to willfully ignore the number of electrically fuelled cars already on our roads and the increasing appearance of charging points around the suburbs. You have to discount the fact that nuclear power can generate as much energy as fossil fuels and more.
To believe the future lies in public transport you have to close your eyes to the sight of buses being driven around Auckland nearly empty because working and commuting habits have been changed by pandemic lockdowns in ways that look likely to last.
And to believe the buses would be full if they were free you have to forget that gold-card holders have generally preferred to drive anyway. Auckland Transport must be getting so little fare revenue these days that the signature policy of Brown's rival, Efeso Collins, probably doesn't matter.
In short, to believe in a car-less vision of the future you have to want to believe it, which those who promote it certainly do. They want to live in a city of self-contained villages where people can walk or bike to work and shop for everything they need, and take a bus or train if they occasionally need to go further.
They want to turn Auckland into a place it is not and probably will never be.
Auckland's attractions are obvious. Its warm climate, extensive harbours and bays, the Hauraki Gulf and its islands, the low rolling landscape that is easily accessible by car and congenial for suburban living. Few cities in the world provide as many of their residents with water views, and so many fine beaches and boating ramps not far away.
These are the reasons so many people have come to live here. I doubt that many want to live in dense apartment projects clustered around public transport hubs in places like Mt Roskill.
Planners call that "new urbanism" but there is nothing new about it. When I came to Auckland nearly 50 years ago, I covered council meetings where town planners were working to exactly the same concept. Their primary motive, just as it is today, was not higher density living for its own sake, it was entirely to support a public transport plan.
There is nothing really new about the transport plan either. Fifty years ago they were looking at the same three railway lines, to be fed by buses, with an additional line in the western isthmus that later became "light rail" on streets. Now it is to be a separated line again.
But whatever form it might take, it would need dense residential development nearby to give it patronage For 50 years they have been trying to design the city to serve a transport system rather than a transport system to serve the city.
Like Wayne Brown, I don't do "visions". I just notice what people like to do and believe the function of government is to enable them to do it as efficiently and safely as possible. Public transport has a role in the efficient use of urban roads but it does not reduce congestion – not even slightly.
Private vehicles remain likely to fill arterial roads to capacity at times; the convenience of personal transport makes congestion a price most people will continue to pay. Public transport takes the spillover when congestion exceeds their patience. That's why Auckland's motorways post-pandemic have returned to near capacity at peak times but its buses have not.
None of this is a reason to stop building more roads or improving their capacity, or pursue futile attempts to make car travel less convenient. The computerised, battery-driven cars of the future will probably be lighter, quicker, better co-ordinated, more convenient and more numerous, not less.
I don't know why the vision of urban planners and left-wing thinkers remains fixated on public transport. It's hard to avoid the suspicion that deep down they simply like the social control that comes with fixed routes and limited destinations.
But cars are not going away, they give us the freedom of independent mobility. A good, vigorous mayor would challenge planners to meet that need, not resist it, and we might get one.