Efeso? Yeah, Yeah!


WHAT IS LABOUR going to do about Efeso Collins? His decision to offer himself as a candidate in this year’s Auckland mayoral election places the party in a very difficult position. If Labour backs him, he risks dragging it in a direction it doesn’t want to go. If it sacks him, he just might win anyway.

Collins is a larger than life politician of considerable eloquence and unsettling (for Labour’s top brass) independence of mind. Even worse, he is a politician unafraid to take a principled stand – even at the cost of angering his senior colleagues. Born and raised in Otara, the youngest son of Samoan immigrants, Collins possesses that rare, but highly prized, quality of personal authenticity. For the Pasifika community, he’s the Man.

In other words, Collins promises to be the sort of candidate who can generate genuine excitement among an electorate that usually dismisses local government elections as too boring to bother with. That said, you might think that Labour’s top brass would have fallen to their knees saying “Thank you God for sending us a candidate straight out of Central Casting!” But they’re didn’t. Why? Because Collins makes them look like the stale, white-bread, don’t-rock-the-boat politicians that they truly are – and they hate him for it.

Foolishly, Labour’s top brass have allowed their animosity towards Collins to cloud their strategic political judgement. Without first securing a rock-solid guarantee from Collins that he was not going to run, they started briefing the Auckland news media about the man they had already fixed upon as Phil Goff’s replacement. (That Phil Goff had fixed upon the same man made it all too easy!)

North Shore councillor, Richard Hills, was presented as the man upon whom Labour’s hands had been laid. Technocratic, socially liberal, a disciple of the gospel of “governance”, and a bona fide policy wonk, Hills was shopped around to local government journalists as Labour’s heir presumptive to the mayoral chains.

And then Collins announced – on the woke website The Spinoff, no less. In a long interview with Spinoff editor, Toby Manhire, Collins laid out his pitch for “the second most powerful job in New Zealand”.

It was a damn good pitch, confirming just how adroit Collins has become at presenting himself as both a genuine reformer and a moral conservative – the perfect South Auckland combo, but also one likely to kindle genuine interest among a great many more Aucklanders than simply the city’s Pasifika population. Receiving the near instant endorsement of the caustic conservative commentator, Ben Thomas, was proof of Collins considerable cross-over appeal.

The Spinoff also did Collins the enormous favour of putting up a video  produced by his South Auckland supporters for his first run at local office. This is the sort of thing that Labour’s pathologically cautious apparatchiks just can’t do. Jacinda can – which is why Labour is where it is today. Do what? Make her party look cool-as. What The Spinoff allowed its huge audience of young, politically engaged readers to see and hear was that, way before Jacinda mastered this style of communication, Efeso’s campaign workers had nailed it to the wall.

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This is Labour’s problem. It has set its heart on a Hilary Clinton, who can’t win, and is now facing a Barack Obama, who can.

What to do?

The most obvious solution – which Collins admits to lobbying for hard over many months to no avail – is an open process of democratic selection. A “primary”, if you will, like those used by the Americans to determine their parties’ choices.

Labour Party members, across the whole of Auckland City, would be asked to vote for their preferred candidate. Simple? Effective? You might think so. But, Labour’s top brass hate the whole idea of membership elections. (Mention the name of David Cunliffe and watch them turn pale!) The only election process they seem to favour is something along the lines of the College of Cardinals choosing a Pope. An entirely mysterious process, conducted behind locked doors, comprehensible only to God.

Besides, even if the Labour top brass could be persuaded to democratise the selection process, they’d still be faced with the problem that Collins would, almost certainly, win it. And if he did, he would likely prove even less amenable to the guidance of Labour’s top brass than he has as a humble councillor. Like his last-minute refusal to vote for Goff’s regional fuel tax, arguing convincingly that it would disproportionately impact his Pasifika and Māori constituents who depend on their old, gas-guzzling jalopies to get them to work on time.

Not the sort of argument that cut much ice with North Shore Councillor Richard Hills – who loyally supported Mayor Goff’s regressive policy.

So, what will Labour do? My best guess is they will put Hills up as an “independent” candidate and spend the whole campaign casting Collins in the role of “spoiler” and “splitter” of the “centre-left” vote. If that fails to produce the desired effect in the polls, then Labour’s little online helpers will remind voters that Collin’s opposed gay marriage and has personal moral objections to abortion. Thoroughly distancing themselves from such scurrilous tactics, Labour will, nevertheless, be privately delighted to see their “friends” in the news media amplify these attempts to cancel Collins’ campaign.

Will it work? Doubtful. Wokeness is an acquired socio-political taste – at best. Depending on how Collins responds to these attacks, his standing with the average, non-woke, voter could even be enhanced. A brown, working-class, family man, under attack by the worst elements of “progressive” left-wing culture. What’s not to like?

Then, of course, there’s the Right. Should its preferred mayoral candidate/s fail to fire, and the race between Collins and Hills come down to the wire, conservative Aucklanders could easily decide to inflict a crushing blow upon Labour in Auckland by throwing their weight behind Collins – thereby ensuring his victory, as well as giving themselves a not insignificant role in the election of Auckland’s first Pasifika mayor.

Wildly optimistic? Maybe. But just read this extract from Collins interview with The Spinoff before writing-off the chances of the Right swinging in behind him:

“As far as reaching across the left-right aisle is concerned, Collins points to his working relationship with Desley Simpson, the National-aligned councillor for Ōrākei. “I made a deliberate choice to sit next to Desley. And that is based on the fact that I represent the poorest ward in the city, and she represents the wealthiest, and we can sit there while other discussions are going on and thrash things out,” he says. “And what that has done has allowed me to understand how people in her area see the world, the same way I can invite her to understand how our people in this part of Auckland see the world.” During last year’s Covid lockdown, that resulted in “one of those beautiful things”, he says, when “she turned up with trailer loads of goods, which had women’s sanitary products, food, furniture, and she brought it to the Māngere budgeting service – trailer loads of stuff … She rang me and said: “Look, I’ve got these people who said they’ve seen you on TV, they know you’re really keen to get some services and products out to your community. Let’s make the link.”

It’s stories like that which make Efeso Collins such a formidable mayoral candidate. Raised on Bible stories, he knows how to craft a memorable parable.

Labour’s problem, as an old mate of mine once observed of another ideologically rigid organisation, is that: “They’d rather keep control of the losing side than lose control of the winning side.” Well, faced with Efeso Collins, the chances of Labour keeping control of the Auckland mayoralty strike me as slim. I think they’ll lose it.

And, frankly, that will be no bad thing.


  1. Collins is good. He should just resign from Labour to prove that he is the man for all of AKL. The mere fact that Goff endorses Hill shows that he is already the wrong guy. Would you want be endorsed by a Labour stooge? As things are anything Labour could become poison in Auckland. Perception is reality.

  2. “Technocratic, socially liberal, a disciple of the gospel of “governance”, and a bona fide policy wonk”
    Love it!
    Things that aren’t necessarily that bad in isolation, but lethal when combined – especially when that ‘gospel of governance’ contains a neoliberal agenda.
    It’s going to be why the well-intentioned 2020 Public Service Act is probably going nowhere in the near future.

  3. Having spent too much time sitting in meetings with Hills, all I can say is that he’s an empty suit. He’s no ‘policy wonk’ because that would require him to have some policies, other than doing what the bureaucrats tell him to do.

  4. Until the last year or so I knew little of Collins but the few media bites I have seen of him ranting about whatever was the subject being “racist”, to a ridiculous level.

    And at the point the race card is played by anyone, for me, I tune out. Maybe he’s better than that but I will probably never know.

    But good on him railing against the council petrol tax. It’s not just gas guzzling jalopies, it hurts anyone of any colour short on cash even driving a Prius, full stop. And all for what? AT use the fund to build bloody judder bars everywhere to sate the anti car lobby. Cheers Labour for that one!… Not.

  5. Last election Goff scored 180,000 votes of a low turnout of 32%.
    Tamahere came in second with 80,000.

    With Hills and Collins competing for the same vote. It’ll let the right in and that’ll lead to a win for the right and also ‘whoever wins Auckland wins the following election’.

    • I wonder when the ‘woke-lash’ will start?

      Will they go full-on feminazi or victim card playing feminazi? How will the different church’s play this?

      Will the ‘Hillary-ites’ get upset and blame the ‘Russians’ for interfering in the election!

      There’s a boat sitting out in the harbour with a couple of thousand tonnes of 70-year-old ships fuel oil sitting in a degrading ships hull that needs dealing with. Consecutive councils and environment representative bodies within council say it’s kapai because they say it is.

      Whoever wins the chains had better carve up the 14-16 councillor(s) cartel voting block too! These wankas always vote for the pricey projects for the rich areas of Tamaki Makaurau and defer projects for the other areas unless it’s a motorway been plough through it!
      They usually compensate the poorer areas with some kinda token voucher project that has no better use than a piece of toilet paper.

      Giving away ratepayers assets to developers for chump change and, no money down until the project sells! A nice little scam has been run out of Panuku.

      There is so, so much more …

  6. ” will remind voters that Collin’s opposed gay marriage and has personal moral objections to abortion. Thoroughly distancing themselves from such scurrilous tactics,”

    I fail to see why raising a candidate’s voting record and viewpoints is a scurrilous tactic.

    • The “scurrious” is a result of this amounting to assumptive reasoning that, in the event of the Mayor of Auckland being able to change those laws, then we can assume that he will do… The whole basis for the “attack” is specious, so should be regarded as either muck racking, or misleading innuendo.. However one describes it, it is a form of dishonesty…

  7. Chris, your head must be in the sand or somewhere. Those pakeha right (and left) wingers wont vote for a brown man especially one from South of the border. Look at Tamihere last time. The only time they would vote for Efeso is as a protest to split the labour vote but they wont need to as they will see an opening. I would like Efeso to win but neither Efeso or Hill will win and it will allow a right winger like molloy to sneak through. Perhaps it would be a good thing to change to the right as long as they are up to it. It should also help us in Ponsonby, Herne Bay and Parnell to ensure the South Aucklanders and Westies’ rates help to pay the $$billions for the separation of our combined storm and sewerage systems.

      • What’s wrong with “pakeha”- pale skin, sounds better than Kraut – isn’t that a cabbage? At least your voting appears to be in the right – sorry left direction.
        Ka nui te pai – all good.

    • Tamihere is a far cry from Efeso Collins. He comes with baggage and has got offside with various factions. Contrast that with Collins who is very much a man of the moment. A true centrist without all the identity politics BS. Understands what the needs are across the community and is focused on delivery. I am not an Aucklander but I would vote for him in a heartbeat.

      I dont think being brown is an issue in politics today. It is more about Identity Politics – if you are tribal, I agree many white people wont vote for you.

      But if like Collins you say, we have a whole community here that needs help, they dont have access to .
      Let’s work together deliver this solution and you will get the votes.

    • “Those pakeha right (and left) wingers wont vote for a brown man”

      Well if he were to bang on about “racism” all the time and focus his campaign largely on Pasifika and Maaori, then no – a lot of Pakeha would understandably be turned off. But if pitches his campaign at Aucklanders in general and promotes policies of benefit to most Aucklanders, then Pakeha will vote for him in droves.

  8. Labour would be cutting it’s nose off to spike its face if it severed ties with Efeso. He’s the future of Auckland, in fact NZ in general. Perhaps a PM further down the track. If I still lived in Auckland, I’d vote for him, with no hesitation. Efeso is the man.

  9. Having a Polynesian Mayor in the world’s largest Polynesian city makes sense..I hope Labour leadership gets that.

  10. ” If Labour backs him, he risks dragging it in a direction it doesn’t want to go. If it sacks him, he just might win anyway ”
    In that case I hope LINO fire him and get on with it.

    If Collins fails to win the mayoralty the campaign will give him important exposure and I hope lead a new left wing alternative and really expose the lives of many brown and white people who are living lives of destitution that never gets reported on anymore and deliberately hidden by the neo liberal media.

    Either way I have known for some time that Efeso Collins may indeed be the hope we have all waited for.

    • Well put, if the neo lib managerialist types smear such a popular candidate it will further educate a number of people, and hopefully a wider campaign to retire Rogernomics.

  11. He’d have my vote to… nothing worse than Part apparatchik’s as Mayors given they’ll happily sell out the city they’re mayor if it advances the national cause in someway perceived or otherwise. I suspect Collins wont play that game.

  12. He should just run as an ‘independent/unaffiliated’ if Labour does not want to back him. He is a good man.

  13. He is backed by Labour. As a brown immigrant myself I had high hopes for him. Sadly lately he is turning into a mellow neo lib. Like all the brown immigrant MPs so far…

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