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Thursday 10 November 2016

Auckland's Good, Bad and Ugly mayors

Posted in: Features
By Jay Bennie - 22nd November 2015

If history is a guide Auckland City's tendency to see-saw from conservative to liberal mayors doesn't bode well for the country's biggest city being led by a glbti-friendly mayor after the forthcoming local body elections.

Before the formation of the supercity greater Auckland had a plethora of mayors but for that period we've focused on the more iconic and nationally influential mayors of Auckland City itself.

Over the past thirty years the Auckland City and now supercity mayoral chains have been handed by voters to Dame Cath Tizard, Les Mills, Christine Fletcher, John Banks, Dick Hubbard, Banks again and Len Brown

Cath Tizard
Cath Tizard, mayor for two terms from 1983 -1990, was notoriously gay-friendly, supporting all gay equality initiatives, occasionally reprimanding people whom she perceived had uttered a homophobic slur. To this day she attends gay community functions as and when her advancing age allow. As Governor General she was an especially proactive patron of the NZ AIDS Foundation.

Les Mills
Les Mills, two terms 1990 – 98, was an altogether different kettle of conservative fish. Supported of the equally conservative council headed by arch-foe of glbti anything, David Hay, Mills was particularly anti-gay. The annual Hero Parade was launched during his tenure and his obstructiveness became legendary. When indignant citizens complained in writing about gay people cavorting and gyrating down a public street he famously passed their letters on to the police, who took no action. The fact that many gay men used the downtown Les Mills gym created a significant ethical divide between the body-conscious and the social activists in the gay communities.

Christine Fletcher
Christine Fletcher, one term 1998 – 2001, was a National party stalwart and MP but a definite social liberal who embraced gay issues and gay people (literally) without hesitation. She was a regular at gay events and developed a strong support base amongst glbti people. Early in her mayoralty the Auckland Gay and Lesbian Youth group received a $15,000 grant from the now more liberal council. There was much carping and harrumphing from conservative elements in the city but Fletcher was unrepentant. She was the patron of the Gay Auckland Business Association for several years and currently serves as an Auckland City councilor.

John Banks
John Banks, one term 2001-2004, was probably Auckland's most homophobic mayor in living memory and possibly since the city first rose out of the flowing cesspit of the Ligar Canal. Frankly, we can't be bothered listing or even summarising his anti-gay outrages which first came to the fore when as a National MP he voted against Homosexual Law Reform and Civil Unions, stirring up public sentiment against glbti people in the process. As a mayor of Auckland he was no better and his litany of anti-gay abuse broadcast on talkback radio is legendary. As an ACT MP he voted for marriage equality but this was widely seen as a desperate and cynical move to try to cling on to his last vestiges of political power.

Dick Hubbard
Dick Hubbard, one term from 2004 – 2007, started out badly when his evangelical Christian background blinded him to the baseless but vicious allegations in a letter penned by his friend John Sax and which Hubbard signed. The letter lied to MPs that allowing Civil Unions would endanger children because gay people kill their children at an alarming rate. Hubbard was aghast when the falsehood was pointed out to him and met with a number of glbti delegations. He subsequently became an effective force for reasonable and equal treatment of glbti people in the city.

John Banks, one more term 2007 – 2010. Nothing had changed from his previous stint, he continued to be just plain ugly, awful, unpleasant and persistent in his homophobia.

Len Brown
Len Brown, Auckland supercity 2010 – present, hailed from the mayoralty of multi-cultural Manukau City (now absorbed into the supercity) and had a more embracing view of the city's diverse population. A liberal by inclination he has been a feature of the ribbon-cutting group which starts each Auckland Pride Parade, walks the talk at the Big Gay Out events and has supported council initiatives to ensure glbti people have an effective voice and presence in the city.

Jay Bennie - 22nd November 2015

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