Hard News by Russell Brown


The standing-still sweep

As you digest all the easy copy about the Auckland mayoral race, it may be helpful to know this: John Banks has achieved his landslide win in the Auckland mayoralty election with almost exactly the same number of votes he attracted in his landslide loss three years ago: about 45,000.

In 2004, only three candidates attracted more than 1000 votes; eight did so this year. Five candidates polled more than 5000 votes; only three did so last time. On a rough calculation, Banks won with about 40% of the vote, and the support of less than 15% of Auckland's registered voters (He polled about 1500 votes fewer than he did to win his first term in 2001, and Hubbard won 3700 more votes than Christine Fletcher did that year.)

Dick Hubbard's failure to inspire has been reflected in the loss of about 27,000 votes; a consequence of the dispersal of non-Banks votes amongst a much wider field, but also of a return to Auckland's City's traditionally pathetic turnout.

It looks a bit like a test case for STV. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Banks wouldn't have won under a preferential voting system. But he did win, by standing still, under the system we've got.

I haven't done the numbers for the council vote (although any of you can feel free to do so for the rest of us), but it seems more clear-cut. City Vision can blame itself: infighting and conspicuous consumption never play well with the voters. But if there was a vision in the almost insanely negative campaigns run by many Citizen and Ratepayers slates, it was lost on me.

I'm pissed off that Richard Simpson has been dumped by the burghers of Hobson: he was one of relatively few councillors with real imagination, and without tedious tribal allegiances. In Western Bays, I'm disappointed for both Lindsay and Rea and Sally Wenley in a very even council race, and I'm very pleased that our hard-working community board has remained basically intact.

The Auckland Regional Council is quite interesting: the centre-left, and Mike Lee, remain in the ascendancy. Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief -- and expert lobbyist -- Michael Barnett comes as the top-polling Auckland City representative, and I'm quite pleased to see him there. That North Shore voters delivered Christine Rankin as their top-polling ARC candidate is a testament to the advantage of celebrity in municipal contests.

Although the words of Gil Scott Heron are tempting, it's three other words that fit: Auckland deserves better.

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