Council campaigns are in the home straight... In Auckland, Orakei is set for change for the first time since World War II, but will be much the same. In other wards, it's tight as heck. And in Christchurch, the campaign's being won by a jacket
He's been labelled a carpetbagger, a betrayer and too ambitious by half, but Cameron Brewer has the profile, 'nice young man' charm and momentum to kick Citizens and Ratepayers out of Auckland's Orakei ward for the first time since World War II.
It was just over a week ago now, but I hosted one of just three public debates between the three Orakei candidates in this true blue part of town at Somervell Presbyterian and desire in this race is pretty clear.
The C&R candidate is incumbent is Doug Armstrong, one of the grouping's leaders. His opening statement laid into Brewer as "not one of us" and a young man using city politics as a stepping stone to higher office, just as Brewer had laid into Armstrong as a destroyer of city heritage in his opening.
Poor old Hugh Chapman was instantly sidelined as a decent, monorail-loving third place getter.
Brewer is familiar to Aucklanders as head of the Newmarket Business Association. He knows how to sell a headline, lobby for a cause and push himself forward all in one breath. If he wins in blue rinse Orakei, it will be one of the big stories of the campaign.
Armstrong is a three-term councillor and chair of the city's finance committee; a former CEO of Unitec. Everything about him says Remuera born-to-rule.
There's no love lost between the two, as is always the case when those with such similar views compete. Brewer is Jim Anderton to Armstrong's Helen Clark, when Anderton broke away with the Alliance. He was expected to be C&R through and through, but what might be called the trendy right have recognised the sense of change running through this election for the new Auckland city and realised that the 'independent' tag is far more appealing to voters than dear old Crusty & Rusty.
Brewer has said he "could play a key role in regrouping of the right". Given that C&R candidates may only end up winning two or three seats, it could be an interesting time for the centre-right in Auckland.
The personal attacks don't go down well with a church crowd, but on the night neither could resist the digs and the interjections; Brewer especially.
To get over the carpetbagger label he promises to move into the area, from Pt. Chevalier, should he win, and to shake off any preconception that he's just using the good people of Orakei to serve his own ambition, he promises them three terms should he win.
I'm putting that down on the record, because it seems a hell of a long time to commit, for a 38 year-old man who clearly wants to be in parliament, or perhaps the mayor's office, sooner rather than later.
The over-riding impression by the end of the night is that the time is right for youth and for Brewer. Armstrong talks about the new council as a government and himself as finance minister. It sounds pompous. He talks about local iwi Ngati Whatua, yet can't get close to pronouncing the name right and refers to them simply in business terms.
He's looks out of touch, even in this eastern bays crowd.
Brewer can be too charming by half at times, but he's fresh, smart, enthusiastic and up for the fight. For what it's worth, my straw poll has him ahead.
But the fact is that it's tweedle-dum versus tweedle-dee when it comes to policy. Where Brewer offer some encouragement to those in the centre and on the left – and will therefore probably get their vote – is that because of his age he understands the groundswell for investment in public transport and the importance of the relationship with local iwi.
Yet both Armstrong and Brewer dismiss talk of a rail link to the airport, support Banks for mayor and low spending, are anti-Maori seats and kick a third harbour crossing into some distant future. Interestingly though, Brewer says the government will back a new bridge over the Waitemata, not a tunnel, which seems to the preferred option in Auckland.
Orakei's never going to be anything but right wing, but that doesn't mean it doesn't sniff the mood for change.
What about the rest of the council? Boy, there are some close looking races. But I'm guessing we'll see Joel Cayford, Mike Lee, Sandra Coney, Richard Northey, and Alf Filipina on the left, with Christine Fletcher, Noelene Raffills, Dick Quax joining Brewer on the right.
I wouldn't be surprised if the pulling power of former mayors told, and Sir Barry Curtis, Andrew Williams, and perhaps even George Wood all made it on as well. imagine a council with four former mayors on board!
I'm not game to stick my neck out any further, but perhaps you have some picks.
On a final, southern note, Bob Parker has been refusing to 'campaign' to be re-elected in Christchurch, but accepting every media interview on offer.
But you know what, of course he's been campaigning. His campaign has been loud and blatant in every shot we've seen of him amidst the rubble.
His campaign has been that orange jacket. It constantly reminds people of the earthquake, of his sleepless leadership; it speaks of someone taking control amidst panic. It is the most potent campaign prop in years
If he wins on the weekend, it'll be that jacket wot won it. If he doesn't auction it for charity, he should donate it to the Christchurch Museum.