As my social media attests, I was pretty excited when I got home from last night's Orcon IRL: Vote Auckland event. Not just because we'd defied the elements to put on another swingin' conscious party (emergency action to empty overloaded rain canopies turns out to be quite the icebreaker with audiences), but because I felt I'd caught a glimpse of Auckland's future and it was good.
In wrangling panels for this one, I'd been determined to do two things: reach beyond the central Auckland bubble, and recognise the key role of local boards in the city's democratic set-up.
That led me to Efeso Collins, who for me was the standout of the evening – he's such a strong figure in person. He was elected to the Ōtara-Papatoetoe local board three years ago and became its chair. This year, he's standing for council proper in the Manukau ward.
I was also impressed by Paula Bold-Wilson, who manages the Waitakere Community Law Centre and is standing for the Henderson-Massey local board and Matthew Cross, a 29 year-old former Army officer who is standing in Howick, where Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart, two of the worst councillors of the current term, were elected unopposed last time.
But here's the thing: as The Spinoff's Auckland voting guide points out, Manukau is "sparkling with talent", more of it than can be elected. At Henderson-Massey, Paula is one of an unprecedented four Māori candidates seeking election to the board. And in Howick, Matthew is one of 10 candidates where last time there were two for two seats on council. (The Spinoff picks Matthew and the Green Party's Julie Zhu there.)
What I think we're seeing is that there is an abundance of strong, new leadership in the city's South and West – it just needs to get itself elected. (The same may be true of parts of the North Shore too – we rather carelessly left out the north last night.) Until such time as we get STV voting, that's left to electors in individual wards.
And in town, there's Chloe. Chloe Swarbrick continued her roll last night: keen to take every question, confident, articulate and informed when she did so. Bill Ralston basically endorsed her on the panel they shared last night and earlier in the day Phil Goff declared that were he not standing for the mayoralty himself, he'd vote for her. I asked her whether, should Goff win and offer her a job, she'd take it. She said she'd consider it.
The reality is that Goff will win – he has huge support in the South and West, where people trust him, and that's fair enough – but a vote for Chloe is a vote for what she represents. She's not perfect (I have some misgivings about the head-butting on Twitter that Charlotte Ryan asked her about) but would I want her involved in steering Auckland? Oh, hell yes.
All the above seem to embody a much better vision than did Morning Report's tedious, incoherent and Chloe-less mayoral debate. And than that offered by some of the time-servers taking up space on the current council.
To be fair, there is still a place for greying white men. Peter Haynes, who chairs my local board, is skilled at and invested in the kind of resource management work that local boards are charged with. Ralston wouldn't be terrible if he was elected and had to own decisions rather than idly mock them. And not all of the youngsters are ready – Chang Hung is full of beans but a little underdone yet on last night's performance. (To his credit, he emphasised his commitment to trying again in three years if he's not elected to the local board this time.)
But yes, there's something good there within Auckland's grasp. Ward voting means that any of us can only play a small part in reaching out to it, and some of us still don't have any great choices. But I think there's cause to be excited for Auckland.
Anyway, pending an edit, here's the raw video from last night's Orcon IRL (note that Cathy Casey was unable to attend as advertised, having been stricken with the flu, and Peter Haynes was her stand-in). You can either scrub forward to about 56:40 in the embedded video below or click this link to go straight to that point in the video on YouTube. Enjoy.