Seldom has New Zealand seen, at any level of politics, a rise and fall as rapid as that of Len Brown. It could be argued he was almost unknown to wider Auckland when, as Mayor of Manukau, he stood for the leadership of the newly amalgamated "Super City". With the help of Labour Party campaign organisers, activists and funds, his image was strongly projected on billboards around the city and he emerged a surprising winner over the much better known, but contentious, John Banks.

Once elected, "Mayor Len" quickly became the face of the Super City and a personality in his own right. Relishing the fact Auckland could speak with a single voice for the first time, he embraced the role with the style of a religious revivalist, making high-blown speeches and breaking into song when the spirit moved him. It was cheesy but it was also effective. Auckland really did have a voice that was being heard and a "liveable city" programme that gave it a sense of progress.

The plan to contain the city's sprawl so it might support a rail-based public transport network was not new; it had been planned and replanned since the formation of the Auckland Regional Authority in the 1960s. For just as long, the plan had failed to convince national transport officials that an underground rail connection in Auckland would be worth the cost to taxpayers. It was Mr Brown's signal achievement that in mid-2013 Prime Minister John Key announced the central rail link would be scheduled, though no date was indicated.

By then the mayor was coming to the end of his first term and no other council member was inclined to challenge him. He was certain to be re-elected handsomely, and so he was. But the very next day his status was shattered.


Nobody needs reminding of the affair disclosed on the Whale Oil website that day, or of the mayor's appearance on Campbell Live the following night. While admitting it all, he was determined not to resign. He vowed not to give his antagonists the satisfaction of forcing him from office. He seemed to think voters who had just given him a second term would forgive him in time.

But Len Brown was not a John F. Kennedy or a Bill Clinton. Secret, extramarital sexual behaviour in office did not fit the person Aucklanders thought they knew. His may have been a common failing, and criticism of him often hypocritical, but he became a persona non grata. Where previously he had been a fixture at every public event, with his happy, clappy routines, now he was not invited.

Mr Brown ought to have resigned a long time ago. He has done no good for Auckland by remaining in office once it had become obvious to all around him that he could not again be effective. For two years, the council has been drifting and fractious, lacking leadership in the position that was given more executive power than any other in New Zealand local government.

His decision not to seek re-election next year is the next best thing to an admission that he no longer should be there.