16 Oct 2013

Senior allies stand by beleaguered mayor

5:08 pm on 16 October 2013

Auckland mayor Len Brown has managed to complete a routine day at the office, with the support of his closest political allies, following his admission of a two-year, extra-marital affair.

One long-standing political opponent councillor, Dick Quax, has said the mayor should resign,

but most either offered their support or withheld comment on Wednesday.

Len Brown.

Len Brown. Photo: RNZ

Mr Brown spent the day as planned, individually meeting the first seven of 20 councillors he says he will lead for the next three years.

One of the newcomers, Linda Cooper, said she told him she didn't want to discuss his personal matters, rather the main issues facing her ward in west Auckland.

Several others indicated their conversations were about council business ahead.

Mr Brown's two most senior allies, deputy mayor Penny Hulse and finance chair Penny Webster said they are happy to continue in their roles.

Ms Webster has also confirmed her support for the mayor. "Stability is what Auckland needs and I'm absolutely backing Len and have backed Len all through the campaign."

She says it's hypocritical of people to condemn the mayor, and while he's got a difficult job ahead with his family, Auckland needs him.

Prime Minister John Key said on Wednesday he would continue to work with Len Brown and the elected officials. Mr Key said whether Mr Brown should resign is a matter for him and his family.

The mayor had no public engagements on Wednesday.

Family values a 'charade' - councillor

However, a long-standing political opponent, Howick ward councillor Dick Quax, says the issues are trust and integrity and Mr Brown should resign.

And a senior Auckland councillor says the beleaguered mayor has a lot of damage to repair, and needs to start with an apology.

Centre right councillor George Wood told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the affair doesn't show the kind of character they want in a leader, but it won't stop Mr Brown doing the job.

"I hope that there will be a meeting with the council and the mayor will talk to us and explain the situation and hopefully there will be an apology."

Mr Wood says it does seem Mr Brown has paraded his family, and family values, around public, and that now seems like a charade.


Arthur Anae represents the Manukau Ward, which is Len Brown's traditional support base, including Pacific and Maori communities with strong family values.

He says there will be a lot of disappointment, but people need to look in the mirror before they make judgements.

Two senior councillors meanwhile have expressed concern to Radio New Zealand News about the impact the revelation will have on the mayor's leadership and whether the council may be destabilised.

Mr Brown's immediate political test will be to retain the confidence of key experienced politicians who supported his first term.

In his only media interview on the subject, Mr Brown told TV3's Campbell Live programme on Tuesday night he hoped Aucklanders who voted for him would recognise his political track record and support his work as mayor.

"My challenges should not constrain a compromise and need for us to really move forward. We've got new councillors who need to be inducted, a new organisation that needs leadership. That's challenging but I am totally committed to that as much as I am committed to trying to right the wrongs of my family."

One of Mr Brown's unsuccessful rivals in the elections, John Minto, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that Mr Brown is now a lame duck mayor. He says he should not resign because of the affair, but because he is no longer going to be effective.

Matai title in question - Pacific panel chair

The chair of Auckland's Pacific advisory panel, the Reverend Uesifili Unasa, says the news that the mayor has been having an affair will come as a surprise and a shock to Pasifika communities.

Mr Unasa, who was a mayoral candidate, said Mr Brown has built a strong personal following in Pasifika communities based on integrity, trust and mutual warmth.

He said it's too soon to say what effect the mayor's affair will have on that loyalty, but it will have some impact because Pacific people don't separate personal and professional conduct.

He said it also raises questions about Mr Brown's Samoan matai title. The mayor was bestowed with the chiefly title of Taua'aletoa by the Samoan Prime Minister during a council trade mission there in July 2012.

Mr Unasa said publicity about the affair has implications for the prestige and responsibilities of the title, and for the protocols of the village and family which bestowed it.