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wayne brown among a sea of emoji faces and microphones
Mayor Wayne Brown (Image: Archi Banal)

PoliticsMarch 21, 2023

Every single one of Mayor Wayne Brown’s interviews, ranked

wayne brown among a sea of emoji faces and microphones
Mayor Wayne Brown (Image: Archi Banal)

The Auckland mayor’s decision to keep the media at arm’s length makes every interview he does grant a rare and exciting event, like a new Avatar movie. Stewart Sowman-Lund ranks them all from least to most exciting.

Wayne Brown has a well-reported lack of affection for the media. In his earliest days in office, he opted for the more old-fashioned art of letter writing in an attempt to get his messages out. Then, he pivoted to photography, posing alongside a bevy of political figures from his 27th floor office in central Auckland.

So few are his media interviews that the Wikipedia page for the Auckland floods describes one appearance in January this year as “rare”. That’s not wrong – he’s done about a dozen since starting the role in late October 2022.

Brown’s disinterest in the media started from day one, with the new mayor pulling out of scheduled interviews with the likes of TVNZ’s Q&A the morning after his triumph at the polls.

Possibly owing to this scarcity of appearances, many of his interviews are very long – a lot longer than, say, the prime minister’s weekly appearances on radio and TV. 

Considering how few and far between each Brown media appearance is, I think we should start to treat them the same way cinephiles do a new Quentin Tarantino film: by working out how the latest addition to the canon stacks up against the back catalogue. And so, in grand Spinoff tradition, here is the first official ranking of Wayne Brown interviews since he was elected. Three of these interviews have been over the most recent three working days (the mayor tries to avoid working weekends).

Wayne Brown in his office signing a state of emergency declaration during the January floods (Photo: Supplied)

(A note before we begin: there are two obvious ways in which Brown’s appearances could be ranked – on their value as an interview, ie the public good served by having an elected figure scrutinised in real time, or, considering that the media serves to both inform and entertain, on their general entertainment value. I’ve opted for the latter. And if I’ve missed any, let’s just assume that’s because they were really dull and/or unavailable online.)

12. Brown v Sean Plunket (The Platform), March 9

The Platform’s Sean Plunket spent much of this impressively long interview (30 minutes!) attempting to lure the mayor into calling someone/anyone/himself a drongo. To the mayor’s credit, he managed not to. But sadly, that means it must fall straight to the bottom of the overall ranking. This was a slog to watch, with Plunket electing to spend much of the inflated airtime bloviating on the way the media had mistreated Brown.

Some positives, however: the mayor opted to situate himself directly in front of a window, meaning we got a lovely view of Auckland’s skyline.

Wayne Brown on The Platform (Photo: YouTube)

11. Brown v Bernard Orsman (NZ Herald), February 19

A written interview that doesn’t have the same impact as a few other additions on this list. Worth reading for the whodunnit-style detail of Brown teasing but not revealing who leaked the infamous “drongos” text. In the parallel universe where these interviews are being ranked on the level of journalistic scrutiny, this would be much higher. 

As an aside, and with no context whatsoever, here is another quote from the interview: “I’d like to see the media focus on the big issues that matter to Aucklanders rather than the number of interviews I do or don’t do.

10. Brown v Heather du Plessis-Allan (Newstalk ZB), February 16

This quick Newstalk ZB interview with Heather du Plessis-Allan was all about transport. The mayor reckons he predicted the budget blowout of the city rail link “last year when I was campaigning”. 

But what about light rail? “It’s a dead duck, mate,” he says.

9. Brown v AM Show, February 2

This was the first interview post-drongogate. Despite it being a television interview, Brown opted to appear by phone (in comparison to the glorious office backdrop of his appearance on The Platform). The hovering phone icon certainly takes away from some of the entertainment value of this interview, as does the sporadic static that can only be associated with a man knocking the cord of his landline on his desk.

However, after about eight minutes of chatter, there is a thrilling last-minute turn into drongo territory. “Is there anything you have said this week that you regret?” asks Melissa Chan-Green. Probably the “odd word”, the mayor admits. “I probably shouldn’t have said the word drongo to a couple of friends… but I was just explaining how I couldn’t show up to tennis that particular day. I regret it was made public, it was probably inappropriate.”

Wayne Brown’s on the phone (Photo: YouTube)

8. Brown v Heather du Plessis-Allan (Newstalk ZB), February 13

The Spinoff’s Alex Casey convincingly argues that all movies should be no longer than 98 minutes. I’d like to propose that all interviews with elected officials be capped at three minutes and 15 seconds, like this one.

On the eve of Cyclone Gabrielle, the mayor called into ZB’s drive show from the “side of the road”. It’s already thrilling stuff. 

Should people be evacuating? “If your home’s flooded, you’ve got to evacuate,” the mayor deadpans. 

Should people go to work? They should look outside in the morning! 

Should Air New Zealand be flying? That’s brave!

A handful of topics zipped through in record time – a mid-tier entry into the Brown canon.

7. Brown v Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB), March 20

In keeping with Newstalk ZB’s approach to short and sweet, this lovely interview from yesterday morning gave Brown a good couple of minutes to just let off some steam about road cones. 

“It’s got completely annoying,” the mayor says, sounding completely annoyed. “Last week they took out one of the lanes of Newton Road in the morning, cones everywhere and one of those dreaded safety trucks in the middle of it… and it was for a small job on the footpath around the corner.”

The mayor says he’s had a “couple of hissy fits” and Auckland Transport is now listening to him. 

It’s not just the road cones, though. Brown is also infuriated by the trucks that carry the road cones. “These are people who insist on driving at about 10km/h just to remind you they’re there,” he says, still sounding annoyed. “By the time they’ve pissed everybody off they’ve created a road rage potential that exceeds whatever safety thing they’ve done in the first palace.”

6. Brown v RNZ, January 27

This shoots up into position six purely on the basis of one line uttered by the mayor as Auckland readied to enter a state of emergency of January 27. “The issue is rain. We really need that to stop.”

5. Brown v Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB), October 20

This was one of Brown’s first interviews after the election, presumably conducted while he was neck deep in stacks of unfinished letters, envelopes and stamps.

But Mike Hosking isn’t convinced. “As good as you are at writing letters, you aren’t the president, you’re just the mayor – and they can tell you to go get stuffed,” Hosking says.

“Well that’s not going to happen, you wait and watch,” retorts the mayor.

And then Hosking goes in: “What are you going to do beyond the letter…?”

One the big questions of our time.

4. Brown v Corin Dann (RNZ), March 16

This interview goes off the rails in glorious fashion. It becomes clear about 10 minutes into this marathon 20-minute conversation that Corin Dann had run out of prepared questions. He is flying blind. And it’s electric radio.

At one point, the mayor is asked about council ownership of golf courses – and suggests that the primary purpose of green spaces is to flood during heavy rain without nearby homes being affected. “I’m just questioning everything…” he says. Later, he appears to struggle with the concept of a library, suggesting volunteers be called in to run them as a cost-cutting measure.

Like the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, this interview had about seven natural endpoints and, impressively, it just kept on going.

Wayne Brown speaks to media the day after the Auckland floods

3. Brown v David Fisher (NZ Herald), February 1

A 30-minute phone call with the mayor turned into an explosive and gripping first-person feature from the Herald’s David Fisher. 

Off the back of the leaked drongo text message, Brown called up Fisher for an interview that can only really be described as Trump-like. 

“I am the mayor for three years. You can’t do anything about that,” he says. “No one else in New Zealand is going to get 180,000 votes. That was my mandate.”

2. Brown v The Spinoff, March 2

Not an officially sanctioned interview, but this brief interaction between Wayne Brown and The Spinoff’s Sam Brooks produced one of the mayor’s most infamous quotes: “Don’t fucking come and talk to me, write a submission and make it clear that you value it.”

Despite being told he was about to be asked questions by a journalist, the mayor elected to respond with aggression. And then, in his defence, claimed not to have known he was talking to a journalist, with the implication that it would have been fine for the mayor to swear at a regular Aucklander.

1. Brown v Kim Hill (RNZ), January 28

There was only ever one option for the top spot. This is Peak Brown

It’s the morning after Auckland’s devastating floods and Kim Hill has even less time for bullshit than she does on a regular Saturday.

Two moments stand out. Firstly, there’s the tense exchange where the mayor suggests “it’ll be interesting to see just how well-prepared Wellington is when the earthquake hits” and Hill, with incredible poise, retorts “That’s a low blow under the circumstances, Mr Brown”.

Then there’s the moment when the mayor admits he didn’t know whether or not text alerts were sent out to affected areas during the flood.

Hill: “Were there any text alerts put out when the emergency was declared?”

Brown: “The comms team covered all forms of communication”


Hill: “So that’s a yes… text alerts were sent out?”

Brown: “Ahh I can’t answer that.”

Hill: “Well you just did answer it!”

(Background rustling)

And scene.

Vintage Brown, vintage Hill, absolutely deserving of the top ranking.

Keep going!