Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown gave two direct interviews to reporters in his first month in office, out of 108 media requests.
By Ben Strang of rnz.co.nz
Brown won the mayoral vote in a landslide on October 8 last year, handily beating his closest rival, Efeso Collins.
His victory was on the back of a campaign promising to “fix Auckland” and portraying himself as a businessman, not a politician.
It is this last argument that has been used by his team to justify a lack of public engagement since taking over from former mayor Phil Goff.
Brown wasn’t good in front of a microphone, but he was good in the boardroom, RNZ was told.
According to figures obtained under the Official Local Government Information and Meetings Act, Brown received 108 media inquiries from radio, television, print and online media between October 12 and November 12.
RNZ had requested figures from Brown’s election date of October 8, but the data provided did not include the first three days of his town hall, when he fielded a huge volume of requests for interviews and comments after his victory.
Of the 108 requests listed by Auckland Council, 54 requests for maintenance were refused. Information, statements or responses were provided for the remaining 54.
Brown granted two individual interview requests – one to Mike Hosking of Newstalk ZB and another to Katie Bradford of 1News.
In the response – signed by Sarah Parry-Crooke, senior privacy and official information business partner at Auckland Council – he noted that this was a “transitional period for the office of the mayor, the mayor and his interim team focusing on understanding the vast and complex organization that is Auckland Council”.
“This coincided with all the necessary new processes of a new Mayor’s office being put in place and staffing his teams. To help during this transition period, the council’s communications team provided assistance , including helping to coordinate requests and inquiries from the media.”
In addition to the two individual interviews granted by Brown, two press conferences were held at the mayor’s office on October 27 and 31, and a media stand-up was held on November 10, following the council meeting. administration held in Auckland Town. Hall.
The response notes that the three total interviews involved multiple reporters and media reporters, “and the mayor answered questions and/or spoke to reporters.”
New Zealand Herald senior reporter Simon Wilson told Morning Report it just wasn’t good enough.
“It’s important because there are questions to ask him about running the city, which he does.
“He’s rolled out a lot of new initiatives, he’s running the city in a different way than it was in the past, and getting the official version of that isn’t really enough.”
Wilson said Brown had two ways of talking to people, one being confidential conversation and the other being good at telling people what to do.
Talking to the media does not fit into any of these cases, he said.
Wilson said Brown was just “not good at talking to the media” and thought a decision had been made that it might “watch him less than he wanted to.”
An important role of a mayor was to be able to speak to the media and the public during a crisis, Wilson said.
The more experienced Brown became in speaking to the media where there was no crisis, the better, because a crisis would come, he said.
Brown declined an interview request from RNZ.
But a spokesman for the mayor’s office reiterated that after his election he focused on the council’s performance and financial situation, citing an annual budget shortfall of $295 million.
“The mayor’s ‘first 100 days in office’ were critical and required some determination in crafting a mayor’s proposal to bridge that financial gap and assemble a team of over 21 people in a matter of weeks, rather than to be readily available for individual interviews with the media.
“The mayor’s office has been very proactive and responsive to the media.”