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Auckland mayoral race: Paula Bennett confirms she is eyeing mayoralty

Author
By Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Mon, 26 Feb 2024, 7:13am
Former National MP Paula Bennett is considering running for the Auckland mayoralty. Photo / George Novak
Former National MP Paula Bennett is considering running for the Auckland mayoralty. Photo / George Novak

Auckland mayoral race: Paula Bennett confirms she is eyeing mayoralty

Author
By Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Mon, 26 Feb 2024, 7:13am

Former Deputy Prime Minister and proud Westie Paula Bennett has confirmed she is considering a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty next year.

“I’m kind of keeping my powder dry, sure people are talking about it but I’m just saying ‘I don’t know’,” said Bennett, who retired from national politics at the 2020 general election and since worked in an advisory role at Bayleys Real Estate in Auckland.

Bennett, a highly skilled and capable politician with a sense of fun, was approached to stand for the mayoralty in 2022 but backed off to have a break from public life.

With next year’s election still 18 months away, Bennett said: “I’m going, ‘who knows what’s going to happen in 12 months. I will enjoy the summer and I might have a think about it then’. So I suppose that is considering it,” she said.

Two senior political sources told the Herald they had heard Bennett is planning to run for the chains of the Super City.

“It’s definitely on,” one source said.

“She is telling people that she is going to run and she wanted people to tell other people that,” said the second source.

Paula Bennett is considering taking the mayoral chains off Wayne Brown at next year's local body elections.Paula Bennett is considering taking the mayoral chains off Wayne Brown at next year's local body elections.

Bennett, a columnist for the Herald on Sunday, yesterday had a go at Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown for his attacks on boards and public servants.

“What he didn’t do was tell us how he would fix it,” Bennett wrote in her column about politicians who take cheap shots at public servants in public and then don’t fix the problems.

Bennett said the column was not early politicking, but did think people take potshots at public servants and used Brown as an example.

Brown said Bennett’s column “where she says mayors should be nice to bureaucrats, that won’t sell well”.

“Local government shouldn’t be a dumping ground for failed politicians who need an income. It is too important for that,” said the mayor.

Brown gave the strongest indication yet he will seek a second term, saying he doesn’t need to announce for ages “but I am carrying on as if I will”.

“I didn’t announce last time until eight months before and I wasn’t even living fulltime in Auckland, now with my profile I don’t need to announce until a month before,” he said.

Next year’s local body elections will be held on October 11.

Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson is another possible mayoral candidate. Photo / Jason OxenhamDeputy Mayor Desley Simpson is another possible mayoral candidate. Photo / Jason Oxenha

Another politician eyeing a possible run for the mayoralty is Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson, who, like Bennett, has strong connections to the National Party. Simpson is married to rich-lister and former National Party president Peter Goodfellow.

The Ōrākei councillor has been around the council table since 2016, chaired the finance committee under former Mayor Phil Goff, was appointed deputy mayor by Brown and shone dealing with last year’s floods.

Simpson said she had not decided whether to run, saying the council was not even halfway through the three-year term.

“There are a lot of people asking me to step up. You never say never but I certainly haven’t made a decision. Wayne Brown is the mayor and as deputy, it’s my job to support him,” she said.

Leo Molloy says he will back "Paula all day, every day". Photo / Fiona GoodallLeo Molloy says he will back "Paula all day, every day". Photo / Fiona Goodall

Restaurateur Leo Molloy, who stood for the mayoralty in 2022, said he would not stand again but planned to run for councillor in the Waitematā and Gulf Ward, held by Mike Lee.

Molloy said he would back “Paula all day, every day”, saying Simpson has limited appeal across the city and Brown has had his opportunities to fix Auckland “but I’m not entirely sure he has fixed anything yet”.

At this stage in the election cycle, there is no obvious candidate on the left. North Shore councillor Richard Hills, who is into his third term, considered running for the mayoralty in 2022, but decided against it when Efeso Collins pushed hard to be endorsed by Labour.

The Herald is seeking comment from Hills.

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