Auckland Mayor Len Brown.
When news broke of the mayor's two-year affair with Bevan
Chuang, this newspaper suggested that if Len Brown's family
could forgive him then the city should, too.
Two months on, that sentiment is no longer sustainable. An
issue far more important than the mayor's private life is now
at stake. Tomorrow, Auckland councillors will not only
formally censure Mr Brown but begin a process designed to
clip the wings of the mayoral office. If that happens, the
Super City may no longer have a leader with the independent
authority to drive things forward. The only means of avoiding
that outcome is for Mr Brown to resign. He must go in the
interests of Auckland and Aucklanders.
Everything that has happened in the past few days underlines
that conclusion. We have waited until the EY review was
released, heard the mayor's explanations and apologies, and
witnessed the councillors' response. There can be only one
judgment. The EY review into his conduct, commissioned by the
council chief executive, did not condemn him outright.
But nor did it save him. It did nothing to lessen the
certainty that Mr Brown will remain a running gag at
barbecues and Christmas gatherings around the city over
coming weeks - and beyond. Going into next year, however, the
joke will be on all of us if the Super City governance is
The corrosive nature of all this is compounded by doubts that
remain and the questions still unanswered - not least in
relation to the reference for a job at the Auckland Art
Gallery that he provided for Ms Chuang, and his trip to Hong
Kong. There is also the foolishness of his free night and
upgrades at Sky City while he was advocating the national
The city's councillors are, naturally enough, disappointed at
the mayor's behaviour. But their response is as short-sighted
as it is ill-judged. They have chosen to mount an assault on
his office. The real risk now is that some kind of oversight
committee to control the mayor would drag Auckland back into
partisan and parochial standoffs, the very state the Super
City was designed to rectify. The absence of an independent
mayor with strong powers would invite the left and right to
revert to practices mercifully absent in the first Super City
Mr Brown has said he remains committed to Auckland. That
cannot be contested. Nor can the skill he brought to
overseeing the transition to the Super City. But matters have
moved beyond his vision for Auckland. That vision is largely
ingrained and accepted. His sweeping victory in the mayoral
election confirmed as much. If he resigned, there must be a
very good chance that a candidate promoting a similar vision
would be elected.
Who that might be remains to be seen, but the next mayor must
be able to lead assertively and independently.
As it stands, if Mr Brown stays he will be constrained by any
council oversight committee. He is referred to widely and
accurately as a lame duck but Auckland cannot let that
characteristic be passed to whomever succeeds him in the
A change of face, voice and reputation will give Auckland a
far better chance of fulfilling Mr Brown's ambitions for the
The affair and all the apologies are one thing but the lax
accountability over grace, favour and entitlements and the
potential emasculation of his office by the council leave
little chance of him regaining the respect of Aucklanders.
Some of the prurient details of Mr Brown's affair with Ms
Chuang probably ought to have been censored. He is about to
be censured by the city's councillors. Now, it is surely time
for him to come to his senses - and go.
- This editorial ran on the front page of the New Zealand