Len has the lowest Council attendance

April 18th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mayor Len Brown had the worst attendance at Auckland Council’s most important meetings last year.

The Herald on Sunday has analysed attendance records for all 21 elected councillors across the four committees that made the biggest decisions – the Auckland Development Committee, the Finance and Performance Committee, and the Regional Strategy and Policy Committee – collectively known as “Committees of the Whole”.

Council’s primary decision-making arm, the Governing Body, which also expects all councillors to attend, was also included.

Across 47 meetings, outgoing mayor Brown and experienced councillor Christine Fletcher were around the table the least, attending 33 meetings (70 per cent).

The Mayor is the one you expect to attend the most meetings, not the least.

21 Mayoral staff is too many

November 22nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown spent $3.73 million running the mayoral office in the past financial year, 10 per cent less than the allowable budget of $4.152 million.

Mr Brown’s office today pro-actively released details about his office spend following an Official Information Act request from councillor Cameron Brewer.

The figures show the mayoral office spent $2.32 million on salaries for 21 fulltime and part-time staff – an average of about $110,000 per mayoral staffer.

21 staff is too many for a mayoral office.

By comparison the Prime Minister’s Office has 25 staff. And the NZ Government is around 40 times bigger than the Auckland Council.

A Mayor does need some staff – a comms person, a policy person, an EA etc. But 21 is way too many.

Herald says Len should not go to Paris

November 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Many Aucklanders would have been open-mouthed with amazement at the announcement that Mayor Len Brown is going to the world climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month. The audacity of the discredited mayor never ceases to amaze. He ought to have resigned long ago but any credit he recovered with his decision last week not to stand for re-election next year probably evaporated with this announcement. What purpose can he serve at the climate change conference?

Sight seeing?

The conference is going to hear that his council has set a target of reducing Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, and that it is preparing for the impacts of climate change such as severe weather events, floods and sea level rise.

The Council’s target is nonsense because the Council has almost no ability to impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland.

National governments can impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a charge on such emissions, determining energy sources etc. A local authority has no such power, so the 40% target is basically wankery.

Len’s borrowing

November 11th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Four years ago, the Auckland Council had $3,081 million of debt (June 2011). At June 2015 it had $6,328 billion of debt. That is an increase of 105%.

An an annual basis it means Auckland Council have been borrowing $812 million a year.

That’s $68 million a month.

Or $16 million a week.

On a daily basis that is $2.22 million every day for the last four years.

Now this isn’t central Government where your tax take is uncertain, and you have cycles of surpluses and deficits. Local Government is your rates income is a fixed amount and known and should match your spending (basically). Yet Len has chalked up $3.3 billion of borrowing in four years, which is partly why rates had to go up 10%.

Hulse attacks Brown

November 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Outgoing Auckland Mayor Len Brown is “not a team player”, his deputy says. …

Announcing his final decision on a Sunday morning without consulting anyone first was typical of his leadership style, she said.

“I thought we should have at least been accorded the respect to have been brought round the table to talk about how he was going to make that announcement.

“Len’s just not a team player,” Hulse said.

“That’s where the energy has drained out over the last couple of years around the council table.

“For those of us who’ve held things together it’s been pretty exhausting really.

“A good leader needs to spend as much time with his troops around the table and talking about things in detail as he does out the front chairing meetings and leading.”

Brown had not necessarily done a good job of that, she said.

That’s very damning, from your own hand-picked Deputy Mayor.

On the subject of Labour MP Phil Goff’s expected bid for the mayoralty she said she hoped he would be focused on what’s good for Auckland, rather than politics.

“The last thing we need is the long hand of Wellington running things in Auckland.”

Can Phil Goff put aside being a partisan MP for 35 years, to work with all Councillors?

Herald says Len should have gone by now

November 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

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.

His main legacy will be the 9.9% rates increased after he promised 2.5%.

Len will not run unless he wants to go out on 10%

October 23rd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Len Brown says he will announce “soon” whether he will run for mayor of Auckland again.

It’s now less than a year until the 2016 local body elections, and so far no significant contenders for the mayoralty of New Zealand’s largest city have officially declared their hand.

Brown is in his second term at the helm of the merged Auckland super city, and says his 2016 mayoral intentions are “certainly not the most important thing I’m dealing with at the moment”.

He would make it known whether he intended to go for the job again “soon”, but would not be drawn on a timetable.

Len wouldn’t get even 10% of he stands. I’ll be amazed if he does.

The other major possible candidate, Labour MP Phil Goff, has said it is likely he will stand and that he will make the call by the Christmas break.

Which will me more 10% rates increases.

Len’s poll tax

April 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Aucklanders should pay a levy of a few dollars a week on top of their rates to kick-start transport developments in the city, Mayor Len Brown believes.

The suggestion will come in the mayor’s report to Thursday’s council meeting on Auckland’s draft 10-year budget, it is understood.

Feedback on the draft budget in March and April showed that around half of Aucklanders want significantly more investment in transport, and support the council’s $10.3 billion accelerated transport plan.

A similar proportion of people are prepared to pay a $2 per trip motorway charge to fund it.

However tolling Auckland’s motorways would require a law change by central government plus the setting up of a complex tolling system on the city’s network of state highways.

Brown is believed to be in favour of collecting an interim transport levy from ratepayers until that infrastructure is put in place.

A levy per household? That’s what people call a poll tax.

It’s also understood he is sticking to his commitment that Aucklanders will pay no more than an average 2.5 per cent annual rates rise, not the 3.5 per cent set out in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP).

No he isn’t. A tax is a tax, no matter what you call it.

A transport levy on top of a rates rise means Auckland households will be paying more in compulsory charges.

Len told he is a dead man walking

March 18th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who are turning their attention to other left-leaning candidates at next year’s local body elections.

The Herald has learned of a meeting last month where key campaign and mayoral advisers delivered the “blunt message” to Mr Brown that he has no chance of winning and should step down.

I would have thought this was obvious a year ago.

Present at the meeting with Mr Brown were key members of his campaign team – Labour strategist Conor Roberts, who ran the mayor’s successful 2010 election campaign; David Lewis, chief press secretary to former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark who ran Mr Brown’s 2013 election campaign; advertising guru Mike Hutcheson; and Pacific Events Centre chief executive Richard Jeffery.

Two senior mayoral staff were also present, chief of staff Phil Wilson and chief policy and political adviser James Bews-Hair.

The meeting was confirmed by four sources, none of whom wanted to speak on the record.

If Len isn’t listening to his closest advisers, who is he listening to?

Shearer blasts Auckland Council and Brown

February 3rd, 2015 at 7:50 am by David Farrar

Mt Albert MP David Shearer facebooked:

There was a disastrous meeting in my electorate tonight. About 150 local people turned up in good faith to consult on a frankly overdue Mt Albert town-centre upgrade, only to find half the funding had been cut by Auckland Transport.

This is the third time the community has been promised an upgrade but everything up until now has come to zero. What an arrogant waste of local people’s time and money.

Auckland Council has totally lost control of Auckland Transport. This time, the dysfunction showed in public. By the time the meeting ended, half the people had gone home.

At this rate, the mayor and councillors can kiss their jobs goodbye at the next election.

A Labour MP slamming the Council headed by a Labour Party member, and controlled by left Councillors.

Some have suggested to me this is part of a campaign to get his mate and neighbouring MP Phil Goff made Mayor, but I think the anger is real.

Brown has one vote!

January 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has told an inner circle of friends and advisers he plans to seek re-election next year.

Sources have told the Herald that Mr Brown made the decision over the summer holiday with the support of his wife, Shan Inglis.

That’s one vote for him. Not sure he’ll get much more than that.

But rather than throw their weight behind the under-fire mayor, it is understood some supporters have told him he has no chance of winning a third term and should step aside.

They do not see any way back for Mr Brown, who has struggled in the wake of an extramarital affair and widespread criticism over management of the city’s finances.

I doubt Brown would ever come second. Maybe third.

One source said if Mr Brown does stand, he needed to start planning his campaign and fundraising. This would be more difficult at the next election, with law changes preventing mayoral candidates keeping donors’ identities secret.

More than $750,000 was raised through the “New Auckland Council Trust” for Mr Brown’s first two Super City campaigns.

Who’s going to donate money to Brown now that he can’t hide it in a trust?

On the left, Mr Brown could be replaced by his increasingly popular deputy, Penny Hulse, or Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff.

Ms Hulse, who went on a health kick last year and lifted her profile outside her West Auckland base, has expressed interest in the mayoralty but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.

“Would I have a crack at the top job? I wouldn’t discount it, but there is an awful amount of water to flow under the bridge and a hell of a lot of time before the next election,” she told the Herald in October.

Yesterday, Mr Goff reiterated a statement he made before Christmas that he would consider contesting the mayoralty next year “but I don’t believe that is where my career path is currently taking me”.

I think Goff will stand. Why would he want a fourth term in Opposition?

Len’s secret rooms

December 7th, 2014 at 7:48 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Thousands of dollars have been spent building a private bathroom and dressing room hidden behind a bookcase in under-fire Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s new office. …

The bathroom cost $10,000 and the large dressing room, which includes an $800 wardrobe, an ironing board and – according to plans – a two-seater couch, is accessible by a hinged section of bookcase that swings open like a door.

I guess that is one way not to have security guards walk in on you!

Mayoral Contenders

December 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Act leader John Banks and Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett are contenders to challenge Len Brown for the Auckland mayoralty in 2016.

I don’t think Len Brown will stand again. Many on the left say Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse will stand as the left’s candidate.

Maybe The Standard should charge commissions?

November 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale quotes the SST:

Police are investigating an entity that funded Auckland mayor Len Brown’s 2010 and 2013 election campaigns.

More then $750,000 in backing for Brown’s two successful campaigns was paid by a trust that kept donors’ identities secret. Since February police have been investigating whether the trust breached the Local Electoral Act.

The Sunday Star-Times has confirmation from Brown’s former campaign team that Greg Presland was involved in the donor trust. He was also the main trustee of the trust that paid almost $20,000 in anonymous donations to former Labour leader David Cunliffe during Labour’s 2013 leadership contest.

Greg is of course one of the main authors at The Standard which of course campaigns vigorously against the use of secret trusts in politics!

Maybe they could help fund their blog if Greg put in the trust deeds that 1% of all donations go to The Standard 🙂

As to whether there is a breach of the law, my initial response was there isn’t, as secret trusts were legal for local government elections in 2010 and 2013.

However the issue raised by the complainant is that a person must be listed as a donor and a trust is not a person. A company is and an incorporated society is, but a trust is generally regarded as not being a legal person, but something on behalf of the trustees (lawyers will correct me if I have this not quite right). So the complainant has said that as the trust is not a person, then the trustees should be named. That seems a not unreasonable thing to do. So it will be interesting what the Police decide – my pick is as usual, nothing.


Len breaks his rates promise

November 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Council’s budget committee has voted 16-7 for a proposal to increase rates by 3.5 per cent for each year of a new 10-year budget.

The proposal got the backing of Mayor Len Brown, who promised voters to hold rates at 2.5 per cent this term.

Unable to control spending, Len instead has broken his word and voted to sock ratepayers with huge increases.

For a 3.5 per cent increase: Len Brown, Penny Webster, Arthur Anae, Cathy Casey, Bill Cashmore, Ross Clow, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina, Penny Hulse, Mike Lee, Calum Penrose, John Walker, Wayne Walker and Maori Statutory Board members David Taipari and John Tamihere.

Against: Cameron Brewer, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Dick Quax, Sharon Stewart, John Watson, George Wood.

You now know who to vote for.

The new proposal is for rates increases of 3.5 per cent for each of the next 10 years – a cumulative total of 41 per cent over the next decade.

The latest inflation figure is 1 per cent for the year to September.

Rates are increasing three times faster than inflation.

The new proposal is for rates increases of 3.5 per cent for each of the next 10 years – a cumulative total of 41 per cent over the next decade.

The latest inflation figure is 1 per cent for the year to September.


Not even Len deserves a Skoda!

September 4th, 2014 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has opted for a less fuel efficient official car, just weeks after launching a new strategy to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, it has been reported.

A new Holden Commodore has been delivered to Mr Brown for use as the official mayoral car — his third Holden in seven years, with a carbon footprint more than 70 per cent bigger than some of the alternatives, Radio New Zealand reported.

The Holden Calais V-Series V6 has a carbon footprint 50 per cent bigger than a Skoda Superb and 73 per cent bigger than a Toyota Hybrid Camry, the broadcaster said, and comes just over a month after Mr Brown launched the Low Carbon Auckland Action Plan, which aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040.

Not even Len Brown should be forced to drive a Skoda!


Did Len have six on the go at once?

May 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The review into Len Brown’s extramarital affair with council adviser Bevan Chuang uncovered a large number of telephone calls and text messages the Auckland mayor made to five unidentified numbers.

Last night, Mr Brown declined to identify the numbers, saying the information was not held by him and details of his phone calls were private to him.

Except ratepayers paid for them.

Papers released under the Official Information Act show that of the 25 telephone numbers with the highest frequency of calls and text messages from Mr Brown, six could not be attributed by the council to a person or company. …

The council paid $4538.50 for the mayor’s mobile phone calls and texts over the three-year period.

Thank you very much for your kind donations …


Len’s personal gym

April 1st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland ratepayers have paid $5200 to provide a personal gym for Mayor Len Brown in the Auckland Town Hall.

A new treadmill and multi-gym were installed in a small room on the ground floor of the Town Hall weeks after he was elected mayor in 2010.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the mayoral office requested the equipment for Mr Brown to manage his health and because he could not easily get to a gym.

I thought this was an April Fool’s joke when I first heard about it.

Len gets a large Mayoral salary. It is not the Council’s job to have ratepayers fund him with a personal gym.

The Prime Minister does not have a personal gym. He either goes running or uses the general parliamentary gym which is available to all staff and MPs.

Len’s sense of entitlement is obviously out of control.

Mr Brown refused to answer questions yesterday about the gym equipment.

Not big on fronting up is he.


Herald Digipoll on Brown

March 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Len Brown will find it tough to be re-elected Mayor of Auckland, according to a newHerald-DigiPoll survey.

Only 22.7 per cent of the people questioned in this month’s poll said they would vote for Mr Brown in the 2016 elections; 57.7 per cent said they would not. The other 20 per cent said they did not know or did not vote in local body elections.

Brown would be an idiot if he stands again. It is very difficult to see how he could be re-elected.

The poll suggests women and the elderly were particularly upset by revelations about his extramarital affair and undeclared hotel stays.

That women probably because of what they saw as a power imbalance, with the mistress being a much younger girl who was a Mayoral appointee.

However, Mr Brown can take some comfort from the survey, which found 51.6 per cent of respondents believed he could still be an effective advocate of Auckland’s interests for the remainder of this three-year term.

When asked if the mayor should have resigned last year after revelations of his misbehaviour, 50.2 per cent said yes and 37.7 per cent said no. A further 12.1 per cent did not know.

This is a reversal of the result of a Herald-DigiPoll survey taken a few days after the affair became public last October.

At the time, 51 per cent of Aucklanders said he should stay and 39.5 per cent said he should resign.

The details in the report about all the hotel stays, is probably why the mood has changed.

Lawyer and feminist commentator Catriona MacLennan said the poll result reflected that women do not believe that Mr Brown’s affair was a private matter and could see he used his powerful position to obtain sex from a young woman.

“Many New Zealand women have encountered this behaviour in their own working lives.

“I and other women wish there was greater condemnation and consequences for such behaviour so that it becomes less prevalent in future,” Ms MacLennan said.

While the affair was consensual, the fact Bevan was a Mayoral appointee and he helped get her a job while trying to start a relationship with her, means it was not a private matter.

The poll of 248 Auckland voters was taken between March 6 and March 16. Of those, only 31.3 per cent voted for Mr Brown last year.

248 is a very small sample size.  That’s a 6.2% margin of error. The breakdowns by gender and age are even bigger. The gender data would have a 8.8% margin of error and the age one could be as high as a 12.4% margin of error. So I wouldn’t put too much faith in them.

Also the fact that only 31% of the sample say they voted for Brown could be significant, as more than that actually did vote for him. However we don’t know if that 31% is of all Aucklanders or of Aucklanders who actually voted. Also asking people who they voted for last time doesn’t always get reliable data as people often claim they didn’t vote for someone who has since disgraced themselves, even if they did.

Brown’s advisor says Mayor toast if credit rating drops

March 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Len Brown’s principal policy adviser James Bews-Hair says the Auckland Mayor will be “political toast” if the council’s credit rating is lowered.

In an email accidentally sent to the Herald, Mr Bews-Hair said the mayor’s office has been advised there is a risk the council’s credit rating will be downgraded.

The email was circulated to senior mayoral staff on Sunday following Herald inquiries about council debt, which has soared from $3.9 billion to a projected $7.4 billion in the first four years of Mr Brown’s mayoralty.

In a candid email to Mr Brown’s chief of staff Phil Wilson, head of communications Dan Lambert and chief press secretary Glyn Jones – and copied to the Herald – Mr Bews-Hair outlined the mayoral position on maintaining the council’s AA credit rating.

“We need to keep on using the KPI [key performance indicator] for debt that we set for ourselves in election policy – retaining our rating.

“If we do that right, that can become the basis on which we are judged.

“We are advised that there is a risk that we will be downgraded … frankly, though, if we get downgraded in an improving economic environment then we are political toast anyway,” said Mr Bews-Hair.

I’d say toast regardless of the credit rating, but that certainly would deepen the searing.

Mayor Brown, who doubles as treasurer of the Super City, has borrowed $875 million on average in his first four budgets. This is nearly three times the average annual borrowings of $355 million by the former eight councils between 1989 and 2010. Debt repayment in the current financial year is $367 million.

Borrow like there is no tomorrow.

Mr Brown has refused to talk to the Herald on debt issues.

I would have thought a Mayor would be willing to talk to their local newspaper on any civic issue.

Brown has a point

March 6th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Making all Aucklanders pay a council income tax may help elderly people in affluent areas who can’t afford their rates, mayor Len Brown says.

The current system is “inherently unfair” on people living on fixed incomes and paying high rates because of the value of their properties in areas like Devonport-Takapuna, Brown says.

Introducing an income-related tax for local council services that everyone pays is an option, he says.

Only property owners pay rates but the council is spending money on infrastructure and services for everyone, Brown says.

I’ve long thought that a local income (or sales) tax could be a fairer way of funding local government than a property tax.

Arguably it would lead to greater fiscal restraint. Councils are always increasing rates without too much backlash because the average householder doesn’t know how much of the change in their rates bill is due to increased Council spending and how much due to a change in relative house values.

An actual local income tax would be much more transparent and hopefully there would be such a backlash against increasing it that Councils would then adjust expenditure to fit within their income (as central Govt does) rather than their current practice of working out everything they want to spend and then just setting rates at a high enough level to fund it.

Paul Little calls for protesters to be silenced

March 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Leftie HoS columnist Paul Little writes:

It’s time to shut down – or rather shut up – the ragtag bunch of malcontents who are giving their lives meaning by hounding silly old Len Brown every time he appears in public. These shrieking, self-righteous harpies are one length of rope away from full-blown vigilantism.

Protesters are now vigilantes, who should be (presumably) forcibly removed or arrested for the crime of protesting. Such a tolerant person Mr Little is.

If the Mayor of Auckland was, for example, John Banks and he had protesters turn up to most of his events – would Mr Little be calling for them to be silenced?

More importantly they are disrupting the democratic process by trying to prevent an elected official from getting on with his job. 

I doubt Len Brown would be Mayor of Auckland if voters had known about his undisclosed free hotel stays and the like before the election.

But such a fascinating view that protesting an elected official is antidemocratic.

Fran on Dotcom and Brown

February 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the NZ Herald:

Kim Dotcom and Len Brown are linked by several personal characteristics. Both are showmen. Both are prone to vanity. Both hate being out of the limelight.

In the personality world that drives mainstream media coverage these days, each of them is also a long-running news story.

This week, each man was under a new round of pressure.

Dotcom because the Court of Appeal found the police raid on his rented mansion was legal (but that the police giving the FBI the seized material was an unauthorised legal breach). The Herald’s splash showing Dotcom (or his companies) had not paid a number of small creditors while he ostentatiously lived high on the hog did not help his reputation.

But his natural audacity and fighting spirit keep him centre-stage.

Brown is also endowed with fighting spirit. He has a thick hide when it comes to public opprobrium. He was booed at the Auckland Nines and was asked not to attend a community military tattoo this weekend.

Maybe they could swap roles? Dotcom goes to all the public events, and Brown sets up a new political party? 🙂

No private prosecution for Brown

February 22nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An attempt to take a private prosecution against Auckland Mayor Len Brown has reached a block in the High Court.

Private litigant Graham McCready yesterday filed an application for orders and directions in a lawsuit against Brown in the High Court in Wellington.

McCready, a Wellington resident, initially filed papers relating to the prosecution in the Auckland District Court.

He was told yesterday the case was not a criminal matter, and has gone back today asking for a review of that decision.

McCready said he was asking for a review because he could not understand why it was considered a civil matter when the proposed charges were bribery and corruption.

Because there is no proof of them. Brown acted very badly, but there is no proof his actions were criminal. Lying is not a crime. Not disclosing a free hotel rooms is not a crime. They are reasons for him to resign, but not reasons to be in court.

The pariah Mayor

February 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Embattled Auckland Mayor Len Brown has been told to stay away from a community military event this weekend for fear he will attract protesters and take the shine off the promotion.

It follows booing when the mayor opened the NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park on Saturday and comes ahead of a planned march up Queen St calling on him to stand down.

The terse reaction following him at many public appearances seems to be a response to last year’s revelations of Mr Brown’s affair with council adviser Bevan Chuang, hotel stays and censure by councillors.

I think Brown is hoping that over time people will forgive and forget. I am unsure that will be the case.