Hard News by Russell Brown

Hitting the fan

Well, you know things have become a tad frisky when you're having Titewhai Harawira mediating for you, don't you? But even if John Banks, Dick Hubbard and Christine Fletcher can agree to henceforth play nice, it can hardly change the fact that this has been the nastiest campaign in the lamentable history of Auckland local body politics.

The chickens were coming home to roost as I began writing this post, with the news that John Banks' campaign manager (and Act party fixer) Brian Nicolle had resigned after a meeting with the mayor.

A brief press statement followed from Nicolle, in which he says he visited Banks' home this morning and 'fessed up to the fact that "it was me who facilitated the distribution of the NBR article." He also insisted that "John Banks has always said that he campaigns openly and honestly. He did not and would not ever approve this kind of activity. I have let him down." Hmmm …

Nicolle, you will recall, was the one who obtained PDFs of the NBR Hubbard hatchet job which ended up being printed up and delivered to Auckland homes without the mandatory campaign authorisation information.

The New Zealand Herald, which got the original tip about Nicolle's involvement, has been following the story with ill-disguised glee (check out the finger-wagging in Saturday's editorial) and discovered the identity of the firm that did the mail-drop after being handed cash by a mystery man who called himself Ava.

Nicolle has refused to answer any questions about the affair, but Banks was pressed into saying that he would demand Nicolle's resignation if it became clear he was involved, in the course of an interview with Sean Plunket on Morning Report today. But, with Dick Hubbard likely to press ahead with his formal complaint about the apparent breach of the Local Electoral Act, the mayor might not be entirely off the hook.

Even if you can accept that John Banks truly had no knowledge of or involvement with last week's illegal mail-drop, it would seem to defy belief that Banks really had not, until today, thought to ask his campaign manager what was going on.

Like I said, discovery in Hubbard's suit against the NBR should be a barrel of laughs. Banks has, meanwhile, been claiming that the Metro "11 reasons not to vote for John Banks" story has also been distributed to voters. He modified it slightly this morning, claiming that "photocopies" of the story had been distributed. which "might .... might ..." have come from the Hubbard campaign but Banks appears to be the only one aware of it. Leaving aside for the moment the apparently baseless innuendo here, can you help me, readers? Has anyone seen this thing?

Anyway, all hail even the most modest competition in our arthritic telecommunications market. With TelstraClear in Wellington and Ihug and the other Wired Country ISPs in Auckland offering tasty 2Mbit/s broadband deals, telecom couldn't afford to sit on its hands too long, and it hasn't. From October 24, full-speed JetStream will be available as a flat(tish) rate service at a competitive price, with a 10GB monthly cap (after that you have a choice of dropping to dial-up speed or pay two cents for every megabyte over). This is good - but, as I predicted, it makes the Telecommunications Commissioner's 256Kbit/s designated service - the only one available to Telecom's competitors as an unbundled service - look silly. This will have to be fixed, and soon.