The National Party turned out in force last night for the launch of ‘independent’ Victoria Crone’s Auckland mayoral campaign – and she dug deep into the government’s playbook to announce a new policy on a second harbour crossing.
But missing from the launch was John Key who has maintained a refusal to endorse Crone arguing that as Prime Minister he will have to work with whoever wins the Mayoral race.
That approach has drawn criticism and last night looked like Crone had finally got the formal approval of the National Party.
She was Introduced by National MPs Mark Mitchell and Alfred Ngaro and with a video exhortation from former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley, Crone’s big night was an emphatic coming together of the centre-right.
Speakers from both the Communities and Residents (C&R) and Auckland Future blocs spoke in her favour. Government ministers Nikki Kaye, Maggie Barry and Paul Goldsmith were joined in the 130 strong crowd by National Party president Peter Goodfellow, the current Auckland regional chair, Andrew Hunt and the two immediate past chairs Alastair Bell and Alan Towers.
Crone’s launch announcement of bringing forward $150m of council funding to put a second harbour crossing on the fast-track by 2020 was applauded by Nats in attendance, including North Shore MP Barry.
The $150m would be a council ‘contribution to the construction start date for that baby in 2020,’ Crone said.
“This is another building block to how we create a world-class city.” A rapid transit public rail corridor would be investigated as part of the new crossing. “If the government agreed to that timeframe, we as a council will agree to another $600m to integrate a public [transport] component into the second harbour crossing.”
The centre-right have plainly identified the North Shore as rich ground for Crone – in the 1970s and 1980s Rob Muldoon used the harbour bridge tolls and their eventual removal to manipulate support for the government in Shore electorates.
It is also the kind of headline-grabber with a vaguely defined dollar value and arbitrary timeframe which the government drags from its deep political pocket when polling shows public focus is too concentrated on policy failings elsewhere.
The Auckland Plan envisages a road and rail tunnel running from near Westhaven to the northern approaches of the harbour bridge and needed from 2030. Its cost has been estimated to be in the billions and would likely require a form of public and private partnership.
Last week’s Spinoff-SSI poll which showed Labour MP Phil Goff substantially ahead of Crone, with other centre right candidates John Palino and Mark Thomas further back again, would surely have concentrated the split National Party mind.
Nothing illustrated the right’s shift behind Crone better than a lonely Thomas tweeting just before the Crone event from across town in Ellerslie, where he and Goff were debating. “Just the two of us” his message read.
Crone was joined last night by her mother, father and daughter and a group of women supporters she referred to as ‘the Sleepover Club’, explaining its role as ‘not quite what you think’. A current councillor who spoke in support, Denise Krum, lauded Crone as ‘inspirational and aspirational and I was sold in the first 10 seconds of meeting her.
“I sit around the council table right now and there is no inspiration or aspiration.”
Crone revealed her father Roland had advocated for rates reform when serving on the Lower Hutt council and instilled fiscal discipline in her from an early age.
“I’ve now worked through tens of thousands of documents and I’ve seen what state we [Auckland] are in. We need to inject a bloody bomb under [the council table] and get action for Auckland.”
Noting the council’s satisfaction rating from residents was 15% in a survey this year, Crone said “Even the IRD does better than that.” She ‘drooled and salivated’ when looking across the ditch to Brisbane, a super city winning a 70% satisfaction rating from its citizens.
Crone promised to ‘take control back’ from Council Controlled Organisations. –“downsizing ATEED, stripping out a management layer in the bureaucracy of the council.”
She drew a distinction between the age, background and outlook of herself and Goff. “All round the world we are seeing an incredible generation of leadership saying we want to stand up, we bring a refreshing style of collaborative leadership and we seek out creative solutions that solve many problems at once.
“It is a new generation versus the old political beltway.”
And Crone played up her links to the National-led government. “I have been building on my existing relationships with the government and how do we partner together. I worry about a 30-year politician who has been boxing out of the red ring….”
With three weeks to go before three weeks of postal voting opens, the right’s anointed one declared: “This thing is winnable. Let’s not let a leader from yesterday cruise into the mayoralty of Auckland.”
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