Hard News by Russell Brown


Victoria Crone and what politics is

Victoria Crone's announcement that she will contest the Auckland mayoralty in a year's time certainly makes the race more interesting. But its manner also underlines how much she has to do and learn.

Although she has the ostensible backing of the centre-right, Crone is not a   conventional centre-right candidate. She is well-liked and respected in the entrepreneurial and tech sectors; the kind of people who turned up to her official announcement at MindLab on Monday. These people aren't necessarily centre-right voters: they're likely to be socially liberal and environmentally aware. They're likely to perceive solutions in better process, but also see business as about being more than profit. They're also a tiny, tiny constituency of Auckland voters. A Red Peak constituency, you might say.

By contrast, Phil Goff's recent announcement was put together like a wedding party. A group of his Kiwi Chinese constituents was there. Dr Ranginui Walker was in the crowd, as were experienced centre-left campaigners and civic centrists like Christine Caughey. In short, many of the people whose influence and skills he'll need to get elected. It was also the kind of coalition-building that is one of the mayor's main jobs.

Both candidates have shown they have a way to go to get to grips with the issues. Goff's apparent willingness to sway with the breeze on controversial elements of the Unitary Plan was exposed within a day of his announcment. On the evidence so far, Crone has further to go than Goff.

Her debut Morning Report interview was full of buzzwords, as if the vow of fresh thinking was enough in itself, but short of a commitment to anything. In line with her tribe's culture, her campaign website comes with a first-person voice and a promise to explore ideas.

This isn't unwelcome, but when she considers the growth in council staff costs, she starts the way her tribe likes to start – by drawing a graph – without, apparently, understanding how far beyond the reach of the mayor some of that growth is. The figures she quotes include staffing at CCOs, which have their own boards and which Rodney Hide deliberately designed to be difficult for for an elected council to influence. The biggest payroll growth has been at those CCOs, often because of increased demand for service delivery. It is complicated.

It may have been an Orsman stitch-up, but the appearance that she couldn't offer a view on the City Rail Link at the same time as she has a post on her campaign site's blog musing about preparing for a future of driverless cars suggests she is putting the robot cart well before the horse. The next mayor's job isn't to muse about what Singapore's doing with driverless cars, it's to hammer the goverment to come up with its financial contribution sooner. The CRL is, after all, already underway.

Crone is intelligent and a networker. But as Brian Rudman implies, she would be best not to brag about her greatest asset being her political inexperience until she learns a bit more about what politics is. And that includes the notoriously fractious politics of the Auckland centre-right she will be seen to represent.

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