“I died twice and became the Mayor of Auckland City. I know what it is to come back from the dead and win,” Len Brown told a room full of multiethnic audience at a two-day Conference held in Auckland last month.
It was a great opportunity to share the lunch table with Auckland Mayor, who was all ears. Transport issues, racism in the job market, lack of diversity in the Council staff and the problem of getting past the gatekeepers to reach him were some of the topics discussed over lunch.
Deeply impressed, he jettisoned not only his jacket but also his prepared speech to deliver his thoughts from the heart, as he began his address.
He said Auckland should move forward caring for the people and listening to their views.
“There would be no gatekeepers either. Auckland is a City that is prepared to work with people of all colours, race, ethnicity, culture and creed. We are doing something special, a ‘Spatial Plan’ to embed and set a blueprint for the next 25 to 30 years. Called ‘Auckland Unleashed,’ the Plan hopes to promote Auckland into an economically vibrant, environmentally clean and socially homogenous City.
Born Taumarunui and raised in Otara, a South Auckland township that is a melting pot of multiculturalism with a small community of 30,000 people, he learnt leadership, tolerance and the importance of working with a cross-section of the community.
“I am looking for Auckland to unleash its potential through ideas, energy and sense of inclusiveness to be a model for the world. I believe this is our destiny,” Mr Brown said.
With a sound knowledge of the struggles of the migrant communities and their resilience, he is set to improve the City and its resident communities.
“Never give up. The message is not how often you are knocked down in life; it is how often you bounce back. This city is about encouraging people to stand up. Those who face obstacles should contact me,” he said.
During the Q&A session, Massey University Sociology Professor Paul Spoonley wanted to know Mr Brown’s vision on diversity, since it was not mentioned in the Royal Commission Report. He quoted Vancouver as an example, saying that the City Council there considered the diverse nature of the resident communities in all its policies and programmes.
Mr Brown responded saying that Auckland had interesting and diverse demographics, comprising Europeans (45%), Asians (20%), Pacific Islanders (15%), Maori (12%) and other ethnic groups.
“That is why this change has become a key social community driver in our Plan to unleashing Auckland,” he said.
“The Super City structure is unique and I have to set the vision for Auckland by statute and drive for change.”
A delegate accused him of changing his speech for particular audience and questioned how he would bring the Pakeha community into his vision.
Mr Brown said he had stopped apologising for his vision long time ago.
“For different communities who might be threatened by the fact that we are not of the same culture, I talk about the hope of that change and economic benefits,” he said.
When addressed “Your Worship”, the Mayor quipped: “Some people call me the Warship.” His own description may personify the fact that he has to take up issues to improve Auckland on a war footing.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Media and Political Commentator and a Postgraduate student of Communication Studies at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org