Ratepayers foot by-election bill
The political ambitions of two elected Auckland Council members will cost ratepayers $230,000.
Auckland councillor Denise Lee and Manurewa Local Board member Simeon Brown will both become National MPs, Lee for Maungakiekie and Brown for Pakuranga, after successful campaigns in Saturday’s general election.
Their new roles will trigger a by-election for an Auckland councillor and a by-election for a member of the Manurewa Local Board, which Auckland Council estimates will cost $228,000.
But it could have been a lot worse.
Seven other elected members, including Auckland councillor Linda Cooper and local board members Lemauga Lydia Sosene, Katrina Bungard, Peter Chan, Beth Houlbrooke, Nicholas Mayne and Lisa Whyte, ran for Parliament but failed to get elected.
The potential cost could have been more than $1 million of ratepayer’s money.
Massey University local government lecturer Andrew Cardow said general elections often triggered local by-elections, because people saw local government as a stepping stone into national politics.
‘‘It’s distasteful. It raises issues of integrity more than anything else,’’ Cardow said.
Across the country most city councils would have candidates running, but probably not quite as many as in Auckland, he said.
‘‘How much integrity can you place on a person who is vehemently passionate about one thing and then less than a year later is finding they’re passionate about doing something completely different?
‘‘I would hope that people who put themselves forward for any type of election had the conviction to stay the distance rather than finding something more exciting and jumping on that.’’
Lee said she regretted the byelection cost, but there were a number of local issues that needed to be addressed and could be advocated for in Parliament.
She would not step down until her new role was made official, and would take a leave of absence with no pay until then.
She wouldn’t nominate a successor but said there were a few good names beginning to surface.
Brown, who will replace longtime MP Maurice Williamson, said he was resigning this week.
Auckland councillor Denise Lee is National’s MP for Maungakiekie.