Manukau Mayor Len Brown is calling for the government to slash the campaign spending limit for the Auckland Council mayoralty race to avoid the mayoralty being ‘bought’ by a wealthy candidate.
The third bill setting up the new Auckland Council is due to be introduced to the house today and contains provisions that will allow each mayoralty candidate to spend up to approximately $580,000 on campaign expenditure during the three months leading up to the election date. Currently, a mayoral candidate in a major city is limited to $70,000.
Len Brown said that while the Auckland mayoralty is by far the biggest role in local government in New Zealand, the spending cap is out of all proportion to the limits in place for other cities.
“Even if you combine all the current mayoral campaign spending limits for the current Auckland councils, you would get a spending cap of around $370,000. The proposed limit of $580,000 is clearly excessive. That sort of limit will price out many potential contenders and could mean the election is, in effect, bought by a wealthy candidate.
“Given Auckland’s size, the limit should be set within $150,000 to $200,000. That will enable serious candidates to buy the sort of advertising needed to market themselves across such a large city – which, unfortunately, is not cheap - but prevent the mayoral race from being completely dominated by one or two people with access to large funding.
“We have seen the dangers of big money entering national politics, with concerns over sources and transparency of party funding, and the emergence of third party campaigns. Local government has avoided these issues, but they could emerge were candidates under pressure to raise large sums in order to be competitive.
“The government needs to amend its decision and reduce the spending cap. I believe $150,000 to $200,000 would enable well-funded candidates to publicise themselves to voters while not giving them such a massive advantage over the grassroots campaigners who might want to enter the race.”
North Shore mayor Andrew Williams and Auckland City mayor John Banks have both expressed concern at the high spending limit. Mr Brown will write to the regions’ mayors to ask their councils to put in a submission to the government calling for the limit to be reduced.