Hulse is the only logical choice to hold the votes
A rather interesting news story came out yesterday about who Mayor-elect Phil Goff would select as his Deputy Mayor. It would be pretty safe to say that Auckland would have expected Waitakere Councillor Penny Hulse to re-assume the mantle of Deputy Mayor for the next three years as we enter the next phase of the City-Building era.
However, all is not what it seems to be.
Penny Hulse dumped as Auckland deputy mayor
New Auckland mayor Phil Goff has dumped Penny Hulse as his deputy.
An official announcement is expected later this week, but sources close to the mayor’s office said Hulse would not be getting the nod.
The sources said Hulse, who was former mayor Len Brown’s deputy, had only got as far as being on Goff’s short list.Hulse said on Tuesday she “hadn’t had that conversation with Phil yet” about whether or not she’d been chosen as his deputy.
When asked if she was disappointed about not being selected as Goff’s deputy, Hulse replied, “let’s just say I’ve led the Auckland Plan, led the Unitary Plan, I held the council together through a sex scandal and then topped the poll for the entire region”.
Hulse attended Goff’s October 8 election victory party.
The two-term deputy mayor under Len Brown was re-elected in 2016 as Waitakere councillor, with the highest number of votes of any elected councillor.
Auckland local body politics commentator and Metro Magazine editor-at-large Simon Wilson said Hulse “did nothing wrong” missing out on re-appointment.
Despite Hulse’s achievements helping realise Len Brown’s political agenda, Phil Goff probably “wants to break with past” by not picking Hulse, Wilson said.“Penny Hulse was a loyal and very effective deputy to Len Brown, she effectively ran council for a year after [Brown’s] sex scandal broke.”
Just after Len Brown was re-elected Auckland Mayor in 2013, it was revealed he had been conducting an extra-marital affair with a junior council advisor, Bevan Chuang.
North Shore councillor Chris Darby’s assessment of Hulse’s performance mirrors Wilson’s.
“Penny has been an absolute anchor over the last six years, a lot of people don’t realise what happens behind the scenes, she did a sterling job.”
A Labour Party source close to Goff’s advisors said Hulse made a three-councillor short list including Darby.
When asked if he wanted to be Goff’s deputy, Darby said he “wants to be in the very best position to implement change”.
“The deputy mayor position is up to the mayor to announce”.
Goff’s senior press secretary Nirupa George said Goff “had made no firm decision” on his deputy but “hopes to make a decision later in the week”.
While Council has hosed down scuttlebutt around the selection of Deputy Mayor the way I see it Goff has already failed the first acid test and committed his first fatal error in the space of a single day (and not even been sworn in yet).
Despite Hulse’s achievements helping realise Len Brown’s political agenda, Phil Goff probably “wants to break with past” by not picking Hulse, Wilson (formerly of Metro Magazine) said.
Given the Council has remained in a 13-8 split towards the progressive side (meaning no change in the Governing Body make up) to interpret a “break with past” borders near foolish of a notion. A break with the past under the Len Brown era would be at least 50% of the Governing Body replaced and Vic Crone as Mayor. BUT the voters have effectively installed a Council that will continue on with the policies and legacies thus far of former Mayor Len Brown.
So the past notion can be dismissed as a point against Hulse
The question is how will the Governing Body react in selection of Deputy Mayor. From what I can see selecting Hulse as Deputy will maintain a 13-8 split as the South and West will continue to be onside. The North apart from Rodney would also be onside as well especially if they are serious about advancing North Shore rail as the next big project after the City Rail Link.
Selecting someone else as Deputy even a progressive like Chris Darby from the North Shore runs the risk of frosty relations at least with one of the two from the South or West. Frosty as in getting a budget through in 2018 will not be easy given South Auckland is nominally conservative although still deemed progressive (meaning don’t annoy them to flip over). Councillor Cashmore from Franklin presents the problem of having two men from South Auckland at the top job which will just alienate everyone else. Fletcher would annoy the West and Desley Simpson would have the West and South going into open revolt. Thus logically when all is whittled down only person is left standing: Penny Hulse.
Side note: Ironically it also shows the lynch pin forms as well if the South decides to flex its muscle. If for some reason the South decided to flip its votes the 13-8 split becomes 9-11 AGAINST Goff.
If I apply another set of logic charts to the situation with the selection of Deputy the conclusion came out as:
- Instability in Council and across the City resulting in a National Government fourth term
- Goff survives only this term as a consequence and a new progressive Mayor is installed
The consequence for the South is that it bunkers down for the next three years and works with Auckland Transport and Panuku Development Auckland directly to progress projects currently under way or in the pipeline about to start. Whether that is a bad thing for the South depends on the ultimate outcomes for its people and businesses. The ultimate consequence is that the West joins the South and Goff loses the majority on Council meaning repeat of the Auckland City Council era prior to 2010 and that was NOT meant to happen under the Super City.
So Goff has committed a fatal error on two parts:
- Not selecting Hulse as Deputy in which the South and West is onside
- Not announcing who is Deputy until end of this week
And it is on Number Two where Goff fails the acid test. The story broke yesterday and if Len was Mayor a presser would have been out minutes later. Goff’s reaction is to say “still deciding” and wait until Friday meaning the Governing Body AND the City are left stewing in suspense. I see that as a mark of indecisiveness I see from the Prime Minister waiting on a poll before forming a reaction to a situation the nation faces (as the legend goes). Selecting a Deputy Mayor should have been straight forward once the Governing Body make up was confirmed. Setting up Committees is something else although keeping the three previous Committees of the Whole (Auckland Development, Finance and Performance, and Regional Strategy and Policy) would have been a start.
Not the first great hit out for Goff and he has not even been sworn in yet. It will be a very long three years too if what we are seeing now continues.