Big changes in run-up to Auckland’s local elections

There’s the potential for a shake-up in Auckland Council chambers, with a number of new faces vying for mayor and ward councillor

A confirmed list of Auckland mayoral candidates shows a markedly different field from a week ago, with 22 people vying for victory in October’s local body election.

Meanwhile, the list of prospective ward councillors – the politicians who will comprise the governing body working with the mayor – contains few surprises, with historically-favoured incumbents going for the job in many parts of the city.

Entry for candidates vying for local election around the country closed on Friday at noon, although large numbers of last-minute nominations kept Aucklanders waiting until around midnight last night to see the full list.

It’s a quick heel-turn from a few days ago, when media pundits were questioning what was going to happen to the council seats nobody seemed willing to put their hand up for.

Major candidates

But who are the 22 people who want a go at the top spot?

One who campaigned prominently, Leo Molloy, pulled out on Friday morning before nominations closed, citing a new poll result placing him in third place, from which he believed he could not win the contest.

Aside from the poll-leading, well-covered names like centre-left endorsed Efeso Collins, former Far North mayor Wayne Brown, Communities and Residents endorsed Viv Beck and the independent Craig Lord, there’s a laundry list of mayoral hopefuls covering the political spectrum.

Some have had their hand up for months already – there’s Gary Brown, the chair of the Hibiscus & Bays local board and professional Austin Powers impersonator, who wants to “bring Auckland back to life”, and animal rights activist Dr Michael Morris, who stands for free public transport and concrete being replaced with greenery while also standing for his local board of Ōtara-Papatoetoe.

Then there’s John Lehmann, the former butcher and property manager bemoans the amalgamation of Auckland’s councils into the supercity and wants to rein-in council spending and rates.

Michael Kampkes has also already been on the campaign trail, holding public meetings as the founder of Citizens Against the Housing Act 2021, a group seeking to stop what they see as unchecked intensification across the city.

Other familiar faces might include criminal barrister and New Conservative co-leader Ted Johnston, who wants to decrease inner-city crime and paint the Harbor Bridge blue.

His campaign has seen some dramatic turns, with the candidate dodging eggs at a recent debate at the University of Auckland, and signs on Dominion Road being vandalized and pulled down within 12 hours of being put up earlier this week.

Johnston said this may have been the work of a serial sign vandal, saying “I do not believe it was due to the aesthetic beauty of the sign, to fill some expensive gallery”. He has several suspects, but no solid leads.

Those are the candidates who have already been out among the public asking for votes, but in an election build-up of last minute changes, the list has changed much over the past week.

Notable figures like John Palino and Lisa Lewis put their names up for contention, despite neither candidate living in Auckland.

Adult entertainer Lisa Lewis announced her candidacy on Thursday, off the back of a failed second run at the Hamilton mayoralty back in 2019 – despite still living in Waikato.

Former Auckland mayoral candidate and restaurateur John Palino seems to be conducting his campaign all the way from Florida, after a surprise announcement this week.

When it comes to surprise moves, nobody surpassed Molloy this week – except perhaps for Wayne Brown, whose ascendancy to second place behind Efeso Collins in the latest poll from the Ratepayers Association prompted his centre-right rival’s departure.

Molloy’s statement extolled his ability to do the job but admitted the polls illustrated a steep hill for him to climb.

“Cowboys don’t cry,” he said. “I’m getting on with my other life as a hospo legend.”

After polling in second place behind Efeso Collins for months, Molloy’s sudden departure from the campaign leaves the spot up for grabs – although this week’s poll results show that Wayne Brown may already have nabbed the position. Photo: Matthew Scott

He has not endorsed a fellow candidate, but said he might, after being given some time to have a read over their policies.

And as of today, Molloy’s reading list is significantly longer.

The new names that round out the contest of 22 include New Zealand-Chinese business leader Robert Hong Hu, the Outdoors Party’s Tricia Cheel, Pūtiki Bay protestor Dani Riekwel and Phil O’Connor, whose platform in past runs has comprised solely of using the Auckland Council to stop abortions in the city.

The full list of mayoral candidates and their affiliated organizations is as follows:

  • John Alcock
  • Vivi Beck
  • Gary Brown
  • Wayne Brown, Fix Auckland
  • Tricia Cheel, STOP Trashing Our Planet
  • Efeso Collins
  • Tony Corbett
  • James Malcolm Dunphy
  • David John Feist
  • Alezix Heneti
  • Robert Hong Hu
  • Ted Johnston, New Conservative
  • Michael Kampkes
  • John Lehman
  • Lisa Lewis
  • Craig Lord
  • Pete Mazany
  • Michael Morris, Animal Justice Auckland
  • Phil O’Connor, Christians Against Abortion
  • John Palino
  • Ryan Earl Pausing
  • Daniel Riekwel

Wards to watch

But the mayor is just one person out of the many steering the ship. Those in the running for positions as ward councilors from the 13 Auckland wards stood to form part of the governing body which makes far-reaching decisions for the city.

There are 64 people running for 20 seats at the table, with most of the current councillors with their hats back in the ring bar the departing deputy mayor Bill Cashmore from Franklin Ward and Cathy Casey of Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward.

Among the notable names running for a ward seat is former All Black Keven Mealamu, who is standing for Franklin after being a member of the Papakura Local Board since 2019.

Cashmore stood unopposed in this seat in the past two elections, which will now be up for grabs by either the sports star or former police officer Andy Baker.

Six candidates will be going for the two Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward seats, and with Casey stepping down at least one will be new to council chambers.

Among these are centre-left CityVision-backed Julie Fairey and Communities & Residents-backed Will McKenzie.

Other wards to watch will include Howick, where councillors Paul Young and Sharon Stewart sat up against ex-National Party MP Maurice Williamson, who followed his time in Parliament with a consular stint in Los Angeles.

Also vying for the Howick seat is Morgan Xiao, who has caused controversy among the Chinese community and has been distanced from the Labor Party for pro-Beijing writings.

Over in the Waitematā & Gulf Ward, former councilor and conservationist Mike Lee is stepping back into the fray with a platform including support for special character areas, investment in public transport and championing marine reserve areas in the Hauraki Gulf.

With 18 incumbents trying to hold onto their spot at the table and 46 new contenders on the bill, there’s the potential for a bit of a shake-up at 135 Albert Street.

Voting papers will begin to appear in mailboxes during the week of September 16, with voting open until noon on October 8.

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