Mayoral candidates debate future of city
Five Auckland mayoral candidates squared off this evening to debate the issues facing the nation's biggest city.
About 300 people attended what was generally a good-natured affair at Auckland University.
Initially there was supposed to be Len Brown, John Palino, Reverend Uesifili Unasa and John Minto involved, but a 15-minute delay saw veteran protestor Penny Bright force her way in too.
"Well-behaved women rarely make history," she told the busy auditorium.
Candidates were invited to discuss their vision for Auckland, which saw much waxing lyrical of "our clean, green city" and the potential as "a city of the future", but Minto used the platform as an opportunity to attack the current mayor.
"We have a smile-and-wave Auckland mayor, who rolls over every time central Government or big business come calling," he said..
Brown was unusually reserved as he talked about his hopes for the extension of a rail system throughout Auckland, as well as a tram system on Queen St.
However, he fired up towards the end as audience members suggested he was out of touch with most Aucklanders.
"I love [the people]. That's the reason I'm sitting here," he said.
Though he stopped short of self-flagellation, he was keen to highlight his commitment to winning another term.
Unasa made a strong opening, making it clear he would advocate for those in South Auckland - an area whose voters have traditionally been loyal to the current mayor.
"The failure of South Auckland and those already marginalised is Auckland's failure," he said.
Not to be outdone, Brown later quipped: "I'm a Brown".
Palino, a former New Yorker, played on his big city roots but said he had fallen in love with this city.
His main campaign point centred around transforming Manukau into an alternative CBD and eventually expanding south towards Hamilton.
Bright vowed to make council more transparent and promised she would continue to fight corruption.
Brown, as he has done throughout his time as mayor, said the "game changer" was transport and the waterfront area, while Minto believed the solution to the city's woes was to implement free public transport.
MC Rod Oram, who kept both the candidates and crowds in order, organised a show of hands at the end, giving the audience chance to indicate who they would vote for.
If it was anything to go by, the mayoral race will be a tight one.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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