How the candidates and the early voting numbers look with a few days to go.
Midday Saturday afternoon marks the end of a long contest, across many months and with what feels like a million debates, for the biggest job in Aotearoa local government: the mayoralty of Auckland. Here’s the lay of the land in the closing straight.
The third super city mayor
One prediction can be made with real confidence: Auckland will have its third super city mayor, after Len Brown and Phil Goff.
Then there were two
On the day nominations closed, the most belligerent of the candidates called it quits; four weeks later, the choice of the establishment centre-right followed suit – Viv Beck still appears on voting forms, but she doesn’t want your tick.
That leaves Efeso Collins and Wayne Brown. (Craig Lord would disagree.) Collins, a 47-year-old two-term councillor, comes with the endorsement of Labour and the Greens. He’s attracted a string of endorsements, and Jacinda Ardern has promised to give him the imprimatur of an Instagram post today. Brown, a 76-year-old former mayor of the Far North, eschews such endorsements, casting himself as a hard-nosed, independent-minded alternative to the status quo.
A Curia poll for the Ratepayers Alliance put Brown ahead by a single point 10 days ago.
Then a few days later a Kantar poll for Q+A suggested a wider gap.
The likelihood is that by now around half the total ballots to be counted have been returned already. To state the obvious: the critical question is which of the leading candidates can convert their support into cast votes in a low turnout election. Brown’s campaign has executed a laser focus on audiences among whom turnout is high, such as readers and listeners of the Monday-Friday Herald and Newstalk ZB. Collins’ support is stronger in parts of the electorate where turnout tends to be lower; his hopes rest on the “ground game”, with the campaign saying they have rolling phone banks and door-knocking outings in the final days.
The hot mic incident reported on Newshub Nation on Saturday, in which Brown was recorded talking about how Simon Wilson’s examination of his credentials and noting of his age had prompted him to visualise urinating on an image of the Herald journalist, may not be the full October surprise, but it could nudge a few voters into the other camp, and will motivate Collins’ supporters further.
Turnout so far echoes 2019
Auckland Council posts daily tallies of votes received, and after a sluggish start, things in recent days have begun to pick up and are tracking roughly towards the final turnout at the last election. The turnout at the last election wasn’t good. It was 35.3%.
Ten percent might do it
The Auckland election takes place under the first past the post system (a growing minority of local authorities use STV). If the winning candidate were to secure 28% of the vote on a turnout the same as last time, they’d become mayor with 10% of the eligible vote.
Mr Fix and Mr Future
Both candidates talk about the future of Auckland and both have promised to fix the things that aren’t working. But Collins’ rhetoric foregrounds the aspirational idea of the city – he tends to begin his pitches by reference to his daughters and the place they will live as adults. Brown, by contrast, presents as the man with the wire-brush determination to turn things around, the municipal answer to Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – even if some question his fixing track record.
Mr Profligate and Mr Fantasy
The candidates’ characterisations of one another are, of course, very different. Brown paints Collins as a “spender” while he is a “saver”; Collins counters that Brown’s promises hinge on powers with which the mayor is not vested, and questions his ability to get the council majority to make them real.
- Get the big overdue, over-budget infrastructure projects around the city back on track and finished.
- Bring council-controlled organisations back under control and focused on delivering for the people of Auckland.
- Cut wasteful spending and take a hard line on costs.
- Support free public transport to remove cost as a barrier and to meet our climate commitments.
- Support better quality and affordable housing for our workers, families and vulnerable communities.
- Support a safe city so people can enjoy our beautiful amenities and public places without fear.