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Monday 08 November 2010

Candidate watch: Simon Prast

Posted in: Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 28th July 2010


One thing is clear about Simon Prast. He is fiercely passionate about the city he is fighting to run.

The longtime actor, director and producer is a dark horse among an ever-growing stable of hopefuls seeking to overtake the men regarded as frontrunners; Auckland Mayor John Banks and Manukau Mayor Len Brown.

Prast certainly doesn't see it as a two-horse race to lead Auckland, a city he adores. "Unlike Mr Brown and Mr Banks, I was born here. And I expect that I have made some contribution along the way. And I suspect that this is where I'm going to die," he says.

"We're just in paradise. And I will be damned if I'm going to hand over my future by default to either of these two men, who as a voter, I wouldn't vote for. It seems to me that a choice between electrocution and firing squad is not democracy in action."

While many may know him for his role as 'rich boy' Alistair Redford in 80s soap Gloss, Prast has had a long and varied career on stage, most notably his 11-year reign as director of the Auckland Theatre Company, which he founded in 1992.

After announcing his candidacy last month, he again hit the headlines after admitted he used P, a drug regarded by many as public enemy number one. He says he came clean because he believes P-use is one of Auckland's great unspoken secrets. He believes the way to address this is decriminalisation.

"If you address this issue and you address this issue in an effective way, rather than a proven ineffective way, my suspicion is that not only will we have much greater social wellbeing in Auckland – and we won't keep losing talented people to the prison system at a hundred thousand dollars a year incarceration - we will retrieve them. And the resource will be much better spent . . . in areas of education, prevention and medical and health support for those already caught," he says.

Another issue Prast wants to address in Auckland is the plight of the disabled, saying he is shocked at the access to public transport and buildings. He also wants to harness the economic benefits from development of the creative and tourism sectors.

"I don't need to bang on about transport. We all know that Auckland has great transport difficulties. I mean don't come with any one solution, but I can assure anyone that would like to vote for me I don't think I would ever, ever, ever build a railway platform that's 15 metres too short for the train. I mean I put on 61 plays in my time at Auckland Theatre Company and never once did we suffer from short set syndrome."

Prast hopes it's a sign of the times that nobody has made a fuss of his sexuality since he announced his bid to become the mayor. "The Mayor of San Francisco, I note, is a reasonably attractive gay man. And he doesn't have any trouble running a city that faces many of the issues we face," he says.

"If anything I think that my sexual orientation has given me a much greater empathy with people. And isn't this what we're supposed to be mulling on and electing? Someone that is good with people?"

He points out the job description for Super City mayor is someone who is 'inspirational, inclusive, articulate and decisive'.

"My feeling as a gay man is that we're all in this together, irrespective of our sexual orientation. And really, irrespective of our political leanings. I mean when you're sitting in rush hour in Auckland are you from the left or the right, are you gay or straight? It doesn't matter. You're from Auckland," he says.

"We have many, many issues that we all share, irrespective of our political viewpoint or our sexual orientation."

However Prast has a message for readers, particularly young gay people: "they have everything to live for and feel good about. And anything that I could do or say to aid them in that cause, I will do."

Jacqui Stanford - 28th July 2010

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