The challenges ahead for the big city Mayors

Auckland

Len Brown won 48% of the vote compared to 32% for John Palino. Stephen Berry a libertarian candidate came third with 4.0% and 13,500 votes. Penny Bright was 4th on 3.4% and 11,619 votes ahead of John Minto on 11,436. The fact Minto got less votes than Penny is somewhat telling!

So Brown has a pretty strong mandate. Palino did pretty well for someone with no previous political experience. Would have been interesting if Maurice Williamson had stood.

Len’s biggest challenge will be his Council. The centre-right picked up a seat in Waitakere and Maungakiekie-Tamaki. However that may be compensated by a loss in Whau which has a 48 seat margin for now. Brown generally could get his policies through in his first term. He also managed a pretty good relationship with the Government, and got them to agree to eventually fund the City Rail Loop. But the loss of Northey on Council is a blow, and if Brewer starts to articulate an alternate strategy, he will be the person in watch in 2016.

Other challenges will be around implementing the Housing Accord, keeping future rates increases down, the unitary plan and political management of issues such as berms which can crop up.

Hamilton

Julia Hardaker is the first Mayor to win re-election in around 20 years. She got 42% of the vote, ahead of Ewen Wilson on 34% – so a healthy 8% margin.

There are no big policy issues for Hamilton (now that the public have settled the fluoride debate) and Hardaker has been competent as improving the performance of the Council, and showing fiscal responsibility.

Her Council has changed a bit and a couple of sensible people got elected to it. The two hard core lefties of Gallagher and Macpherson will continue to undermine, as will Ewan Wilson who has already declared that he is standing again against Hardaker in 2016. It says something that he has said he is standing regardless of how well she performs in the next three years.

Hardaker needs to not worry too much about the troublemakers and continue to focus on improving the Council’s performance. However good sound management only gets you so far in politics, so she also needs to consider whether there are a couple of initiatives that she can champion to get people behind.

Wellington

Celia Wade-Brown got 38% of first preferences and won by 4.4% against John Morrison. She is rather fortunate to get re-elected considering the high level of discontent over the Council’s performance. A lack-lustre campaign by Morrison helped her considerably.

The Council composition (including her) is now Green 4, Labour 2, Centrists 5, Leftists 1, Righties 3. The left has seven clear votes out of 15 and others like Justin Lester who often vote left. If her political management improves she should be able to actually get some policy wins through Council. The Green caucus of four Councillors could prove quite potent – but they may provoke a backlash if they turn the Council into a roadblock for development.

Losing Morrison and Pepperell off the Council is a boon for her (for quite different reasons). Her first challenge is to appoint a Deputy Mayor and allocate Council committee chairs. Can she get Council working relatively cohesively?

Christchurch

As expected Lianne Dalziel won easily, with 72% to 23% for Paul Lonsdale. She has a huge mandate, but not an unconditional one in that she had no major opponent.

Dalziel also has a supportive Council with Labour winning six out of 13 Council seats. Vicki Buck is former Labour so Dalziel should be able to get almost everything she wants through her Council unless she stuffs up badly.

Her major challenges are related. They are to restore confidence in the competence of the Council so that the thought of it taking over full governance of the city after 2015 doesn’t cause resident to wake up screaming with nightmares. The consenting fiasco shows there is a long way to go. The other challenge is her relationship with the Government, especially Gerry Brownlee. If she drives the Council towards competence, then it should be relatively easy for the Government to start to transfer functions back to it in a year or two. If however Dalziel doesn’t sort out her own backyard and just attacks the Government (as many of her Councillors will want her to do), then the relationship is likely to be hugely abrasive.

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