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Auckland Mayor Len Brown has told an inner circle of friends and advisers he plans to seek re-election next year.
Sources have told the Herald that Mr Brown made the decision over the summer holiday with the support of his wife, Shan Inglis.
But rather than throw their weight behind the under-fire mayor, it is understood some supporters have told him he has no chance of winning a third term and should step aside.
They do not see any way back for Mr Brown, who has struggled in the wake of an extramarital affair and widespread criticism over management of the city's finances.
Mr Brown would not answer questions about his political plans.
"I'm too focused on the challenges and opportunities of the job at hand, such as the 10-year budget and how to keep Auckland moving, to be making decisions about what might happen at the end of next year," he said in a statement.
One source said if Mr Brown does stand, he needed to start planning his campaign and fundraising. This would be more difficult at the next election, with law changes preventing mayoral candidates keeping donors' identities secret.
On the left, Mr Brown could be replaced by his increasingly popular deputy, Penny Hulse, or Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff.
Ms Hulse, who went on a health kick last year and lifted her profile outside her West Auckland base, has expressed interest in the mayoralty but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.
"Would I have a crack at the top job? I wouldn't discount it, but there is an awful amount of water to flow under the bridge and a hell of a lot of time before the next election," she told the Herald in October.
Yesterday, Mr Goff reiterated a statement he made before Christmas that he would consider contesting the mayoralty next year "but I don't believe that is where my career path is currently taking me".
Mr Goff is keeping a close eye on the Super City as Labour's spokesman on Auckland issues. As a former Foreign Minister, he also eyeing a possible overseas posting in future.
"I'm certainly not contemplating retirement at this point. I have certainly got the energy and the drive and the passion to keep on making a contribution," he said.
On the right, former Act leader John Banks and Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett have said they could challenge Mr Brown for the mayoralty next year.
Mr Banks is considering resurrecting his political career after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for failing to disclose donations from Kim Dotcom to his Auckland mayoralty campaign in 2010. The court ordered a new trial, but the Crown has yet to decide whether to hold one.
Mr Banks, who lost to Mr Brown by 66,000 votes in 2010, said any decision would depend on what was best for the city and who else might come forward.
That person could be Mr Barnett, who said he had been approached by a large number of people and believed his long business, political and community ties made him a "trusted pair of hands" to run the Super City.
John Palino, the novice politician who stood against Mr Brown in 2013 and attracted 109,000 votes, is not ruling out another crack at the job.
An online Herald poll following last month's report on possible mayoral contenders attracted more than 2000 votes. The unscientific survey showed Mr Goff as preferred candidate on 27 per cent, followed by Mr Banks (23), Mr Barnett (16), Ms Hulse (14), Mr Brown (4) and Mr Palino (4).
Another possible candidate, the National MP for Pakuranga, Maurice Williamson, who toyed with standing for the mayoralty in 2013, has not said if he will consider a tilt next year.
- By Bernard Orsman of the New Zealand Herald