20th Century Fox / Craig Lord 4 Mayor

Going way back with Auckland’s monorail-promising mayoral candidate

An Auckland mayoral candidate has broken the internet* by announcing a plan for a monorail around the central city. Who is Craig Lord, and is he serious? Alex Braae spoke to him shortly after his campaign launch to find out.


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Who is currently coming in third place in the Auckland mayoralty race? The contest has been dominated by Phil Goff and John Tamihere, to the point where none of the other 19 candidates are getting a look in.

Except one, who seems determined to push his way to the top of the pile. If media (and especially  social media) coverage is any guide, third place could well go to former engineer and current professional entertainer Craig Lord. He talks for a living.

It’s fair to say he’s not short of ideas. Big ideas, thinking bigger than Muldoon would ever have dreamed possible. This weekend it was a monorail. It’s good, Lord says, because it would be financially self-sustaining, be able to be built on poles so it wouldn’t disrupt streets, and wouldn’t need to rely on rail crossings. “We could build across waterways and harbours, that’s North Shore sorted. We can also transit the many ravines and hills that Auckland is made up of. Think about a high speed Monorail from the regions like Whangaparāoa, Kumeu, and Pukekohe. We could even go to Wellsford. East, west, north, south, anywhere and everywhere,” he said in a statement.

The policy is extremely not costed – Lord believes it needs to win public support before he sets a budget – but he’d also cancel light rail down Dominion Road, so there would be some financial mitigation. It also has tremendous meme potential. 

Lord has also accused John Tamihere of stealing a waste to energy plant idea, saying it would stop the Dome Valley dump from going ahead. And he  also had a lot of thoughts about The AM Show host Duncan Garner, who he reckons is in cahoots with the Tamihere campaign. He’s said as much on his Twitter account.

Is he serious? As the last days of the campaign start to rush closer, he seems to be taking it all more seriously, at least. That didn’t necessarily seem like the case when it all started. As the monorail announcement shows, his plans have developed significantly since the early days. 

The Spinoff interviewed Craig Lord in April, 2019. And then, a lot of stuff came up and it went on the backburner. Apologies but these things happen sometimes. So for those who are just finding out about him and his campaign, consider this a launch interview. He started by describing how he makes a living through motorsport media and picking up other work when it comes along.

Craig Lord: When there’s not enough motorsport on, I sort of sniff around and go, oh, that’s a good idea for some income, and I’ll go do that. It’s all just having a lot of different fingers in pies, you can scratch out a living, which is really all I want to do. I do things for lifestyle rather than money.

The Spinoff: All right, so if you were to win the mayoralty, that would be quite a lifestyle change?

CL: Yeah, indeed it would, and I’m okay with that, because I can. Because I’m free as a bird, I can do that if I feel like it, and take that responsibility on. I’ve had my time as a regular, run of the mill occupational worker, from 16 to about, gosh, I would have been 32? I was an engineer. You know what it’s like, being in the same place, doing the same job. So yeah, I’m okay with it, the lifestyle change wouldn’t be a big deal.

Being a non-politician, I can come in with a different look on things, and from an engineering perspective, you learn very much how to work smarter, not harder.

Day one in, what’s the first thing that you’d do?    

Find out where all the offices are.

Okay, the second thing?

Find out what time I can go and get a coffee.

I think if I was going to take it to the bare basics, my gut tells me it would take a month to find out the different departments, different people of who’s doing what. The induction period is not going to be quick and easy. So I don’t believe anyone who comes into any occupation fresh, and just jumps in boots and all, if it’s not something they’re already doing. So if you’re going to say, ZB to Magic FM, it might be a different company, but it’s the same job. This is a bit different.

Then, what my ideals are, at this stage, I’ve got a huge list of them, and I’m still going through to decide which ones I’ll prioritise, and which ones are more pipe dreams. But one of the things I want to find out is why Auckland Council spends so much. It just seems to spend so much in dumb ways.

What areas do you mean?

Everything. Here’s a good example. You look at, say, a footpath. And there’s been a repair done by a contractor, and they’ve done a really really crap job, you say to yourself obviously the tenders of the contracts, Watercare or Chorus, or just one of the footpath roading contractors, they’ve done it for what seems to be the cheapest dollar, or we’re spending a lot of money with people who don’t know how to do their job properly of don’t care, so we’re wasting money, because things often need repairing again.

I think it’s an across the board thing. Right throughout everything. You don’t know until you’re on the inside, you need the people in each department on the inside, coming back to you with the information on where money is being spent. And then you’ve gotta go down into the old school saying – if you look after the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.

CRAIG LORD. PHOTO: CRAIG LORD CAMPAIGN

You mentioned not being on the inside. Did you consider running for council or a local board to, you know, get some of that insider perspective?

Nah.

Fair enough.

That’s not how I roll.

All right.

That’s not me. As the conversation with my closest friends developed, it was – just go for mayor mate, just get on and fix this place, kind of the general feedback I was getting. And I kept saying to them, you can’t just go in, it’s not a dictatorship, you can’t just go in and fix things. It’s developed over about 12 months of being told, don’t muck around, just get in, get in and manage the place. So no, I haven’t thought about that. All or nothing.

What groups of people do you see as your natural constituency for this race? Where do you think your message will resonate most?

(Long pause) That’s a really good question.

I try.

Trying to nut that out in my head, yeah okay I know what you’re saying. I (another long pause) It’s always been a problem of mine, patting myself on the back, I’ve got this thing where I can communicate with anyone. Everyone’s on the planet for a purpose, that’s what I think, and whether it’s to do absolutely nothing and claim the benefit for your life, that’s your purpose, so be it. But I think my purpose on this planet is to entertain people, and inform people, and help. It’s what I’ve always done.

There’s many different ways you can do it, you can be an ambo, or a fireman or policeman or whatever, you can help people, but I’ve always done it differently. By, you know, helping customers with projects. It’s such a long answer, but I guess because of it, I get on so many groups of people, so I don’t think I’ve got a specific target, I think I’m quite generic.

I’m not sure I’d say that?

Yeah, yeah, the funny thing is, you don’t hear a lot of feedback on that kind of thing until you’re doing certain things in life. And I just get on and do my job, through social media and my circle of friends, and all the different projects I’ve done over the years, I constantly get feedback. I get people coming up to me still, saying oh, I’ve been following you on facebook for years mate, I log in just to see what you’re saying. And I brush it off and think yeah, that’s nice, that’s cool. And I think I’ve just entertained and informed people.

It’s not like I’ve gone out to be – you know, one of the things I really hate is these social media influencers. They seem to wake up one morning and decide they’re going to go and make their fortune and fame. And yeah, I just be me, and people just sort of hunker around to listen to what I’ve got to say next.

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Oh I should be a Bishop! Oh hang on, I could start a church! I could be a Bishop! There we go.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. It was a long conversation.

*Footnote on breaking the internet: Excited those of us nerds who can only conceive of policy through Simpsons memes.


The Spinoff local election coverage is made possible thanks to The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism click here.



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