The main candidates in the Auckland mayoral race came face-to-face for the first time tonight in a debate hosted by the Penrose Business Association.
Seven mayoral hopefuls attended the debate - Viv Beck, Gary Brown, Wayne Brown, Efeso Collins, Ted Johnston, Craig Lord and Leo Molloy.
With more than three months until polling day, the main candidates are Efeso Collins, who has been endorsed by Labour and the Greens, giving him a clear run on the left; with restaurateur Leo Molloy, businessman Wayne Brown, Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck and freelance media operator Craig Lord splitting the centre-right vote.
A Ratepayers' Alliance-Curia poll last week showed a close-run contest between the five candidates - Collins, Molloy, Beck and Wayne Brown, with Lord only a few points behind.
The poll of 500 found 53 per cent did not know, which is not surprising given a 35.3 per cent turnout at the 2019 elections.
Collins described the debate as "mayoral speed dating" as the candidates were given two minutes to present their credentials before answering questions and having just one minute to answer. A moderator strictly applied the rules.
In short, Beck described herself as having a "hard work gene", Lord said "pragmatic commonsense is what us engineers do" and Collins described his leadership style as about care, collaboration and courage.
Gary Brown's pitch was to bring Auckland back to life, Leo Molloy quoted the Economist publication saying Auckland had dropped from the number one city in the world to 34, and Wayne Brown said his experience fixing $1 billion-plus companies meant he could sort out the "shambolic finances" at Auckland Council.
For a piece of theatre, Ted Johnston unfolded a large billboard promoting himself as the deputy leader of the New Conservative Party.
One issue to draw some interesting responses was what to do with Ports of Auckland.
Collins said the evidence did not stack up to move it to Northland, but would like to see it moved, with a port area kept for tourist ships. The Labour politician promised not to sell the council's shares in the port.
Auckland mayoral candidates Wayne Brown (left), Viv Beck, Leo Molloy and Efeso Collins. Photo / Greg Bowker
Johnston wanted it moved to the Manukau Harbour, "near the powerhouse and main distribution centres".
Molloy said the idea of moving the port to the Manukau Harbour is ridiculous and it should be moved to the Firth of Thames, another option being explored.
Wayne Brown, who headed a review into the port that recommended it be moved, said the port company should be made to pay $400m a year to the council from the multi-billion landholding on Auckland's waterfront.
Nominations for the postal elections close on August 8. Voting papers will be sent out to those on the electoral roll between September 16 and 21. Voting opens on September 16 and closes at midday on October 8.
The turnout for the Auckland Council elections in 2019 was 35.3 per cent.