Actor runs for mayor
HE MIGHT be a political newcomer, but Auckland Theatre Company founder Simon Prast believes he has what it takes to be the region's first super-mayor.
The One Tree Hill resident, who will stand as an independent, says he's decided to challenge the two major contenders Len Brown and John Banks because he wants what's best for the city.
"I was born here, grew up here, work here and suspect I'm going to die here. I want to win for all of Auckland, not for the left or the right."
Mr Prast says he made the decision to put his name forward after Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey ruled himself out of the race.
"I've got a lot of respect and time for Bob and was disappointed to see he wasn't running. He's a leader, a visionary," the former Waitakere resident says.
"That left people with a choice between the mayor of Manukau and the mayor of Auckland city. I didn't think that was much of a choice."
While he's never stood for election before, the former Gloss and Shortland St actor says he's had plenty of involvement in the political process after setting up the Auckland Theatre Company and heading the Auckland Festival in 2003.
"I had to make the case for support on many levels, including to local, regional and central government."
Mr Prast says the city's immediate future hangs on having the right person wearing the mayoral chains.
"The mayor will have almost presidential powers. The whole democratic structure rests with the mayor."
Not surprisingly, the 48-year-old feels he's the best person for the job.
"I think I've got a very real chance of winning."
The new mayor's powers will include appointing a deputy mayor, influential committee heads and the formation of a mayoral office.
He says he had plenty of leadership experience during his time at the Auckland Theatre Company choosing scripts, casts and design teams to put on various productions, all of which had to meet budget requirements.
He says the $580,000 cap mayoral candidates can spend during the campaign is "astounding".
"The thought that people think they could buy the election is appalling to me."
Some of Mr Prast's top priorities include keeping assets in public ownership, making sure the council steers council-controlled organisations in the right direction and adopting Waitakere's eco-city policy.
Along with running for mayor, Mr Prast is set to resume the role of Jeffrey Duff in Go Girls this month.
Other confirmed candidates that hope to lead the new Auckland Council include March for Democracy organiser Colin Craig, comedian Ewen Gilmour and water campaigner Penny Bright.