The Super City mayoral contest has sparked to life with Labour MP Phil Goff all but declaring he is standing and the first centre-right candidate coming forward.

Last night, Mr Goff told the Herald "it is likely I will put my name forward", telling voters to expect an announcement before Christmas.

This comes as Orakei Local Board member Mark Thomas puts his hat in the ring.

Mr Thomas is standing as an independent with encouragement from several councillors but no political backing at this stage for the October 2016 contest.


The likelihood of Mr Goff seeking the mayoralty with support from Labour is a big blow for mayor Len Brown, who is being counselled by allies to step down gracefully.

Mark Thomas.
Mark Thomas.

"The mayor is too focused on the job at hand to be thinking about what might happen at the end of next year," a mayoral spokesman said last night.

In March, the Herald revealed that Mr Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who delivered a blunt message that he has no chance of winning, he would get no financial backing and his sex life would dominate the campaign.

Other possible contenders are staying quiet. Former Telecom boss Theresa Gattung has not commented on the rumour she is thinking about the mayoralty.

National MP Maurice Williamson, under fire from gay and women's advocates for a recent speech considered homophobic and sexist, Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett and former Auckland City mayor John Banks are considered long shots.

Centre-right figure Mr Thomas, who has actively been travelling around Auckland for the past year, acknowledged he had a low profile.

"Everyone wants a big name but in the absence of a big name what you want is someone who knows the issues and is prepared to take that step," he said.

"Five years since amalgamation Aucklanders have not seen enough progress on the issues that matter most. Auckland is becoming more unaffordable, traffic congestion is getting worse and the region's growth plans have divided communities."


Mr Thomas wants to rewrite the city's Auckland Plan blueprint, resolve the debate around transport funding, better deliver local transport priorities and provide housing and growth plans more Aucklanders support.

Other candidates to announce they are standing for the mayoralty are activist Penny Bright and the right-wing Stephen Berry, both of whom stood in 2013.

On social media today, Upper Harbour Local Board chairwoman Lisa Whyte said she would be supporting Mr Thomas next year.

"Good luck Mark. You have invested the time to get around the city and speak to people to understand the issues and priorities, and have the experience to make a difference," she said.

Manurewa Local Board member Simeon Brown said Mr Thomas' announcement was great news: "Auckland needs new leadership."

On the left, councillor Cathy Casey said "Go Mayor Phil Goff". Said Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes: "Viva El's been clear for some time that Goff is most likely to stand and that the Tories don't have a credible candidate."


Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said "in the absence of a big name, good on Mark for being prepared to articulate the concenrs and aspirations of the centre-right".

"He's very realistic and won't stand in the way of a rock star coming through, but at least he's getting the ball rolling and that has to be helpful," Mr Brewer said.

The centre-right has been searching for a strong candidate to challenge Mr Brown since 2010. In 2013, John Palino, a relative unknown, carried the banner, polling 109,000 votes to Mr Brown's 164,000.

Former National Party president Michelle Boag said a year was a long time to sustain a campaign and believed there were still other people considering a challenge.

National cabinet minister and former Auckland City councillor Paul Goldsmith has been tasked by the party to find a candidate. He has not returned calls.

National Party figures are also behind a plan for the centre-right to gain control of the 21-strong council.


Going under the name of Future Auckland, the plan is to funnel party resources, including funding, for candidates who would agreed to sign up to a disciplined caucus approach.

This follows the virtual disintegration of the Citizens & Ratepayers brand, which controlled the former Auckland City Council for decades, and renamed Communities and Residents in May 2012.