Click here to read Geoff Cumming's earlier profile of Len Brown.

It has been a hard-fought slog, but Len Brown is now mayor of a Supercity with the largest council in Australasia. Will he use his new "formidable powers" for good?

"Oh chur, so cool aye." "Let's jam for half an hour." "You are the bomb."

Len Brown does not talk like a statesman. But from today he is top dawg, the man in charge of the largest council in Australasia, a city of 1.4 million people, a $3 billion annual budget, $29 billion of assets and about 6000 staff.

The folksy, rapping mayor from South Auckland now has to prove that as well as the common touch, he has the political nous to steer the city through major transition.


Brown's number one priority is transport. By the time the Rugby World Cup hits town he says there will be an integrated ticketing system for public transport. He is also targeting traffic congestion by implementing transport plans around the region's 571 schools designed to reduce the number of mums and dads delivering kids to and from school.

The third prong of his transport plan is an inner-city underground rail loop, which he says will be in construction by the time his first term comes to an end.

A weary-looking but cheerful Brown turned up at AUT in Auckland city on Friday afternoon for a meeting with 20 members of the Auckland and Manukau youth councils - it's his last in a 14-month long campaign.

He opens with a warm, touchy-feely introduction. "It's my decisions that you're inheriting and it's critical that you have a sense of my heart and vision," he says.

One sceptical attendee challenges: "How will you persuade the councillors and staff to act in our interests"?

"I'm the boss," replies Brown, and a streak of the determination that has driven him through the campaign glimmers through the friendly exterior. "The new mayor has formidable powers. The new mayor has to set the vision."

The conversation rolls around issues concerning youth today: alcohol, unemployment, representation. One concerned youth council member thinks they have the focus wrong. They should be concentrating on making young people aware of politics, he says.

After the meeting Brown laughs at how the encounter reminded him of his younger self. "We're birds of a feather."


* * *

Brown was born in Taumarunui and moved to Auckland as a youngster when his father got a job as principal of Mayfield Primary in Otara. He attended Mayfield Primary, Papatoetoe Intermediate and De La Salle College. When Brown was 18 he spent a year in Holland on a Christian youth exchange programme. He returned home fired up politically, joined the Labour party and had dreams of changing the world. He enrolled at the University of Auckland, studied law and worked for firms around Auckland, eventually becoming a partner in Wynyard Wood.

Over time, his political views mellowed.

"You've got to leaven your political philosophy with the realities of life and people's aspirations and their need to bloody well survive half the time," says Brown. "Political philosophy and debate is hugely important in underpinning how we go together as a society, but so is our recognition of the realities of life."

During the meeting Brown reaches for a bunch of grapes. "You all know I keeled over and nearly died from a heart attack two years ago," he says, casually. "Fruit is really good."

Brown's near-death experience happened on stage at the Pacific Music Awards. He claims to have bounced back into full health and has managed to keep well through the gruelling campaign with good exercise and diet.


It isn't the only health hurdle the Brown family have faced. Brown's wife, lawyer Shan Inglis, has battled throat cancer and was given a clean bill of health this week after surgery in June. "She's got the green light," says Brown. "It's been an intense time up and down on that front but she's come right."

Inglis was not out on the campaign trail on Friday. She was waiting in the Manukau suburb of Totara Park for her husband to come home and have a rare dinner with her and their three daughters Samantha, 22, Olivia, 14, and Victoria, 11.

Family time has been scarce lately. Brown turned 54 last week but managed to celebrate with them between campaign events.

It has been hard work building his profile from the "grey man".

Although well-known in Manukau where he served on the council from 1992 to 2004 before being elected mayor in 2007, for a long time Brown was known in wider Auckland as the mayoral candidate who wasn't John Banks. Slowly he has grown an identity of his own.

There have been wobbles along the way. There was the bizarre, face-slapping apology after he admitted putting personal expenses on his ratepayer-funded credit card.


Controversy still hovers over the $810 dinner at a Manurewa restaurant last September, which Brown charged to his council credit card. He still refuses to reveal who was there or what the purpose was.

In June, he cut up his credit card on Campbell Live and has declared that as Supercity mayor he would use a purchase account and publish details of his spending.

* * *

At AUT's Akoranga campus he circles the cafeteria, encouraging students to vote. Most look uninterested, a glazed look in their eyes as they rustle their sandwich papers.

But across the cafeteria there is an excited cry of, "Can I have your autograph?" Sophia Bloomfield, an 18-year-old bachelor of health sciences student from Papatoetoe wants it for her older sister. Why? "How he talks is really inspirational," says Bloomfield.

Inspiration? Well, to be realistic, he's no Barack Obama preaching the audacity of hope.


Outside, he comes across another fan club. Lisa Bourke, also a health sciences student. "Len Brown," she yells. "We were just talking about you."

Bourke has just cast her vote for him. Later she admits she wasn't entirely sure it was Brown. "He looks so much smaller in real life," she says.

* * *

It has been a hard-fought slog for votes that started in August 2009 at the bland, ranch-style Sorrento's function centre on the south slopes of One Tree Hill. It was there Brown announced he wanted to be the first mayor of Auckland's Supercity, a structure he initially opposed.

He returned to Sorrento for his victory party yesterday.

One Tree Hill is a symbolic location. It stands at the heart of Auckland City with sweeping views north, east, west and, in particular, south to "Brown's Town", Manukau. The land was donated to the city by founding father, Sir John Logan Campbell, a visionary leader of colonial Auckland.


Campbell's shoes are big ones for the first mayor of the Supercity to step into. Brown will have to prove that he's not "so much smaller in real life".