3 May 2016

Mayoral hopefuls decry rescinded invitations

4:12 pm on 3 May 2016

Two Auckland mayoral candidates aren't happy at being invited and then excluded from an election event being organised by a ratepayer-funded business group.

Mark Thomas and John Palino say they were uninvited to an Auckland election event.

Mark Thomas and John Palino say they were uninvited to an Auckland election event. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Mark Thomas and John Palino said they were invited to the South Harbour Business Association candidate event, but then removed from the line-up, leaving just Vic Crone and Phil Goff.

Mr Palino said he was invited by email to join a line-up including Phil Goff and Mark Thomas, but 20 minutes later received another email withdrawing the invitation.

Mr Thomas said he believed he'd been excluded after an objection from rival centre-right candidate Ms Crone.

Victoria Crone confirms her decision to run at a news conference in Auckland.

Auckland mayoral contender Vic Crone Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The business lunch was organised by the South Harbour Business Association, which is funded entirely by a targeted rate and a grant from the Auckland Council.

Email exchanges obtained by RNZ News showed some of the on-again, off-again exchanges:

  • April 6 2.18pm: SHBA's manager Alex Holley, confirms that Vic Crone and Phil Goff will attend.
  • April 21 12.27pm: SHBA writes to the Goff campaign - "Further to my email regarding Mark Thomas wanting to join, I have received a call from Victoria Crone's representative saying Victoria will not appear with Phil and Mark."
  • April 27 11.49am: SHBA invites mayoral candidate John Palino to present "alongside Phil Goff and Mark Thomas."
  • April 27 12.05pm: SHBA emails John Palino (16 minutes later) "Please disregard my previous email as my request is now withdrawn."

Mr Palino, who with almost 109,000 votes in 2013 was runner-up to Len Brown, said it was not a good performance from a ratepayer-funded group.

"They should actually give their members the opportunity to hear all the candidates' policies and visions for Auckland, I think that's important," he said.

"To lock someone out or uninvite someone, which is a bit rude, just shows unprofessionalism."

A spokesperson for Ms Crone said they had told the association only that they would prefer being paired just with Mr Goff.

Mr Thomas rejected Ms Crone's public stance that it was a two-horse race.

"There's clearly three leading candidates, most commentators are saying that, but it's not up to us to declare ourselves as leading contenders, ultimately the voters will decide," he said.

From left, Victoria Crone, Phil Goff and Mark Thomas.

Mr Thomas, right says most commentators are saying the mayoral election is a three-horse race between him, Ms Crone, and Mr Goff. Photo: RNZ

The association's manager Alex Holley would not comment other than to send RNZ News a short texted statement about Mr Palino's invitation.

"A faulty action by myself. I made the request, it was not approved, thus I withdrew it within minutes of making it," the text read.

One mayoral candidate at least has been delighted with their access to candidate forums.

Activist Penny Bright, who has long attacked what she calls "corporate cronyism", told RNZ News she had been invited to a candidate event organised by the Institute of Directors.

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