Auckland councillor Mike Lee has announced he is seeking re-election for the Waitemata and Gulf ward on Auckland Council, setting up a battle with Waitemata Local Board chairwoman Pippa Coom.
Coom has been selected by the left-leaning City Vision ticket, which had endorsed Lee at the last three Super City elections.
In a statement issued to the Herald tonight, Lee said he has decided to stand again as an independent after being lobbied by council colleagues and supporters in the ward he has held since the Super City was established in 2010.
The veteran politician, who was chairman of the Auckland Regional Council prior to the formation of the Super City, has a strained relationship with Labour Mayor Phil Goff and aligned himself with the 'B' team of councillors who have stood up to the mayor's 'A' team.
Goff is tipped to win a second term despite a strong campaign from former Labour MP John Tamihere, but faces the prospect of the 'B' team picking up more seats and gaining the upper hand around the council table.
The mayor will not want to see Lee, a vocal critic, returned to council. Instead, he will be pinning his hopes on Coom - a Goff supporter - winning the central city ward seat.
Lee, aged 70, told the Herald it was his intention to retire at the end of this term and spend time with his wife Jenny after moving back to Waiheke Island last year, saying the decision to stand again was one of the hardest decisions he had made since being elected to the Auckland Regional Council in 1992.
"I am dismayed at the situation Auckland is in. I firmly believe the 'Super City is the worst thing that has ever happened to Auckland.
"The people of Auckland have to endure an arrogant, overbearing council/CCO bureaucracy, appalling financial mismanagement and waste.
"The council's growing debt situation (presently being swept under the carpet), will I predict, almost immediately after the election, be revealed to show how truly bad the situation is.
"I am also certain this will be the pretext for another attempt to privatise Auckland's remaining incoming-earning assets such as the council's car parking buildings and even the Ports of Auckland," said Lee, who brought 100 per cent of the port company into public ownership when he chaired the ARC.
Lee said he wanted to continue focusing on his achievements to reduce sewage discharges into the harbour, the Parnell Train Station, the Motukorea-Browns Island Regional Park, the soon to be re-commissioned waterfront heritage tramway, and the eradication of rats from Rakitu Island near Great Barrier Island.
He also plans to oppose reticulated sewerage on Waiheke Island and keep campaigning for trains - not light rail - to the airport.
Meanwhile, the battle for the two North Shore seats heats up on Sunday when Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Grant Gillon and Kaipatiki Local Board member Danielle Grant launch a new ticket, More for the Shore, to take on sitting councillors Chris Darby and Richard Hills.