Hard News by Russell Brown

Just this once ...

Look closely, because I possibly will never say this again: thank you John Banks. The Westhaven waterfront debacle probably always needed a little double-dealing and subterfuge to fix it, and Banks was always likely to be your man for that.

So while private bidders were, in good faith, under the impression they had a chance of obtaining this prime public land from Ports of Auckland (which, despite being in majority public ownership, seems to have paid no heed to the public good at all), their bids were in fact, being secretly reported by Banks (who was being informed by a group of nameless businessmen in the know) to Cabinet, which was then able to trump the best private bid and obtain the land on behalf of the public. Dodgy? Probably. But effective.

The government will now sell the land, at an $8 million to $10 million loss, to Auckland City, which, if Banks has its way, will fund the deal by selling some more Auckland Airport shares. This isn't especially smart - from what I can see the dividends from retained airport shares and the revenue from the operation of the marina ought to be able to service a debt incurred in the purchase.

Righto, enough being nice about Banks. He was at his preposterous worst talking to Simon Pound on The Wire yesterday. When asked to name five things he had achieved in his mayoralty, he claimed that "we have completed the Grafton Gully motorway project". What!?

The Grafton project is, indeed, a cracker - completed ahead of schedule and exactly the kind of new roading work we should be doing. But it's got bugger-all to do with John Banks. It's part of Transit New Zealand's Central Motorway Improvement strategy, which was launched in 2000, before Banks was even mayor. If you want to thank anyone, thank Cabinet and your fellow taxpayers.

Banks has, of course, through his entire term, made a fetish of claiming credit for things he did not, in fact, have anything to do with. But no more, according to Christine Fletcher, who said when I interviewed her on Wednesday that she has "barristers and solicitors" on his campaign team who will pull up Banks every time he makes one of his forays into fantasy. Well, get onto it then …

Fletcher is certainly talking a good fight, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that either she or Bruce Hucker will have to step down before the mayoral election, or see the anti-Banks vote (a majority, according to Banks' own poll, which also had Fletcher running third) split. We'll see.

Fighting Talk's Matt Nippert has an excellent commentary on conservative bovver-boy Stephen D. Taylor and his prolific use of the Maxim Institute's online spam-the-editor service:

Editors on the letters pages take note: you're being taken for a ride. Taylor has gotten over 13,000 words of moralising rhetoric into newspapers around the country (not counting smaller community newspapers who, if anything, are more likely to print spammed mail), probably at the expense of people expressing genuine, local concerns. Taylor may have a point, but it's an underhand way of spreading it.

On that topic, a person who used to work there has taken issue with Herald editor Tim Murphy's statement yesterday that he vets readers' letters before publication: "Tim Murphy never glanced at the readers' letters received … after being typed up they were sent directly to Garth George."

And Lindsey Rea spoke to Garth George himself when she complained about the threatening "rabid dog" letter (see yesterday's post below): "He told me that it was fair comment and that if I found it offensive then I had a problem. He said he agreed with Peter Dunne's campaign against 'Pink Thinking". I have written to the Herald along those lines, but I am not holding my breath!"

So it seems that if your views align with George's you're a lucky correspondent. If not, forget it. Seriously, I think something has to be done about this silliness. This is not worthy of a major newspaper.

I'm sure that if I didn't work from home I'd end up at many more PR ligs. But their scheduling at either end of the city workers' day makes it a hard ask, even if there's a glass of wine or two in it. So to Nokia, Xbox Live and the enterprising folks at Intersect Communications, hope it went well.

Still, there'll be no missing Armageddon Pulp Expo. Armed with a family's worth of press passes (thanks Deborah!) we will be rigorously inspecting the culture tomorrow morning. I'm expecting my wallet to be prised open at some point, but you get that …

Tonight, of course, you will find me in the ASB Stand at Eden Park, watching the Blues try to overcome the Stormers and earn a crucial bonus point while they're at it. Dammit, we just might make the semi-finals after all.

And then there's tomorrow night: the Classic with Dimmer. All sold out out now, and I'm expecting my homeboy Shayne to rock the house in a strictly downtempo style. Auckland, eh? Not too foul …