Super-city race holds spotlight

11:27, Oct 06 2010

The race to run the new Auckland City Council has eclipsed mayoral contests in other cities and as the Saturday deadline approaches, Manukau City's Len Brown holds a clear lead over John Banks.

Mr Banks, current mayor of Auckland, is rallying his supporters in a last-minute bid to head off his opponent but might have left it too late.

Mr Brown is benefiting from a successful campaign to motivate ratepayers in his South Auckland stronghold to cast their votes and Mr Banks is trying to counter it with appeals to North Shore residents to close the gap.

The winner will hold one of the most powerful positions in New Zealand as Auckland is unified into a single city, and the transport problems that have blighted it for decades have dominated the election debates.

Mr Banks is telling Aucklanders Mr Brown would run Auckland the way he runs Manukau, while Mr Brown accuses him of being divisive and incapable of delivering the unity the city needs.

In Wellington, Kerry Prendergast looks set for a fourth term as mayor.

A Dominion Post survey published on Wednesday gave her 33 percent support with her two closest contenders, Celia Wade-Brown and Bryan Pepperell, both on 25 percent.

Running fourth was newcomer Jack Yan, on 8 percent, who has the backing of Sir Michael Fowler, the capital's mayor between 1974 and 1983.

He has described Mr Yan as an intelligent man capable of delivering the change the city needs.

"I cannot recall in all my years on the council, or subsequently, a worse council than this last one," he said this week.

"It's an indictment on local government."

Sir Michael said Mrs Prendergast had "a total inability" to get people to work together and couldn't control the council.

In Christchurch the elections were disrupted by last month's earthquake, which directly affected voter attitudes.

Until then, Wigram MP Jim Anderton held a huge lead over incumbent Bob Parker but that was reversed as Mr Parker played a leading role in the city's recovery.

Mr Anderton has admitted he has is having a tough time, made more difficult because Mr Parker isn't engaging in the campaign.

He has said there are much more important issues to deal with, and it seems most of Christchurch's residents agree with him.

In Dunedin, city councillor Dave Cull (54 percent) was leading mayor Peter Chin (31 percent) in a survey published today by the Otago Daily Times, with former councillor Lee Vandervis third on 11.8 percent.

Invercargill's Mayor Tim Shadbolt is going for another term, with Suzanne Prentice the only challenger capable of taking him on.

Ms Prentice is running a controversial campaign of zero rates increases for the next two years, and Mr Shadbolt says that would mean raising huge loans which he won't do.

The city council's finance and policy committee chairman, Norman Elder, said Ms Prentice's policy would have "a short-term good feel" factor about it but borrowing money for major projects would mean there was less to cover other services, the Southland Times reported.

In Hamilton the race is close, with Mayor Bob Simcock trying to hold onto his job against a serious challenge from Julie Hardaker. Mr Simcock was slightly behind in a recent Waikato Times poll and both camps have resorted to mass emails in the final days of the campaign.