Will the only TV coverage of the Auckland mayoralty contest be Len Brown’s TV advertisements?


NZ-Music-AwardsIs it any wonder that a week after voting papers were sent out just 5.9% of papers in Auckland have been returned compared to 11.1% at the same time in the last local body election?

The only visible sign of an election is the various billboards up around the city because the media have by and large ignored the elections. There has been a smattering of coverage in the Herald and on Radio New Zealand but almost nothing on TV despite the numerous opportunities to do so.

Last week for example a public meeting organized by MANA to protest the proposed road through Mangere and Otahuhu drew 200 passionate locals for a standing-room-only meeting. It was ignored by the mainstream media.

Part of the reason for the low voter interest is a media dominated in recent weeks by a combination of the three-week Labour leadership contest followed by the never-ending, wall to wall media coverage of the America’s Cup.

There is also the widespread view that the sharp political divide between John Banks and Len Brown at the last election spurred voter interest while this year Len Brown’s re-election is seen as a foregone conclusion with other contestants well down the track.

A further view holds that the candidates themselves are to blame because they have failed to excite voters with bold ideas.

This last criticism has some validity. I blogged a couple of weeks back about the failure of most candidates to offer any real policies aside from “feel-good” promises. Most seem to be relying on either personal name recognition or brand recognition to get voter support.

But even if candidates fail to put up clear policies of any sort the media has a crucial role to interrogate candidates on the key issues facing voters in their area.

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For obvious reasons here in Auckland the Mayor’s job is arguably the second most important political role in New Zealand politics so it’s just not good enough for the media to give up on it.

I’ve always disagreed with the notion that voters are apathetic about politics. I think they are disillusioned because no matter who they vote for these days nothing seems to change.

But get talking to any Aucklanders and they all have strong views on the big issues facing the city namely: traffic congestion, unaffordable housing, unlivable wages and of course rates.

The most important reason for the low voter turnout so far has been the almost total lack of discussion on any of these issues by our main TV channels. Neither TVNZ nor TV3 has had any candidate discussion or debates on these issues nor have they put individual candidates through the ropes by testing their policies vigorously in interviews.

Mana has put forward big bold solutions to Auckland’s big problems and these should be robustly questioned by well-informed journalists so voters get a better idea as to how practical and believable the policies are and how determined the candidate is that they will follow through if elected.

In the meantime in the absence of significant media coverage we are heading for a self-fulfilling prophesy of an incumbent mayor getting New Zealand second most important job in a political vacuum.

With 94.1% of the Auckland voters yet to vote there is still a chance for the media – in particular TV – to give Aucklanders some reason to vote and to vote with their eyes open to a much better understanding of the issues.

Otherwise the only TV coverage will be Len Brown’s advertisements.


  1. I was also surprised that there were little to no big policy ideas.
    An obvious one that would probably have won the race for a candidate (or caused people to vote against the idea and thus create more participation) was a ‘bill’ to exclude non residents from owning property in Auckland. Either directly or via punitive taxes.
    That would have had people voting as it’s probably one of the MAJOR issues in Auckland.
    But as you said, it’s a snooze fest, mainly because Len thinks it’s a ‘walk in the park’.
    p.s. You’ve got my vote John, mainly for your stance on the GCSB bill and the efforts to organise the rally.

  2. I voted for Len Brown last time. The Ports union debacle shows he lacks spine and the courage to stand for those who voted him in. The costly (to ratepayers) road and housing plans he’s currently espousing for Auckland show him to lack genuine creativity and foresight to lead Auckland into the future. So, I definitely won’t be voting for him this time around.

    John, I don’t doubt your passion and loyalty to that segment of the Auckland population that’s missing out, as well as your political credibility. Your challenge isn’t what you’re promising. It’s more about whether you have the kudos to influence the grinding wheels of local government to implement those promises. Don’t get in there and start wailing Len Brown styles about how your hands are tied because the cards were already staked before you arrived.

    Is the fiery John Minto brand of mayorship well complimented with practical and pragmatic qualities that will successfully translate ideology into reality? These are qualities that your other co-candidate John Palino has, probably in spades but as a social democrat, he and any other right-wing allied candidate like him will never get my vote. You demonstrate that you’re capable and you will get my vote. Len Brown needs to go. Show us that you’re up to being his replacement.

  3. Lack of media coverage is certainly a problem though local suburban papers are covering local candidates, but they also involve letterboxes. The major problem I believe is postal voting. People move, dont get their mail, so don’t enrol, don’t vote or cast invalid votes etc. Plus budgets, as John says, Brown had ads galore.

    The tidy tory households in the Eastern and Central suburbs are not so transient, check their mailboxes and more of them vote.

    So online voting must be worth a try, if the ‘senseless’ (Census) can get away with it reasonably well it should be trialled in tandem with postal next time. Anyway my family are voting Minto for Mayor and so are some of my friends who I would not have necessarily expected to. They see Len as a sell out and like the free transport idea.

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