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Mayor feels the bite of wayward word

I’m glad to see the back of January, as are many New Zealanders, I imagine.

There won’t be any prizes dished out for picking the first month of 2023 as the wettest January on record, both here in Wairarapa and in many other parts of the North Island. The official figures aren’t out yet, but it’s possible we broke the Wairarapa record more than 10 days ago, so I’m not taking a big risk by making the call now.

If you went against the usual holiday season trend and headed to the South Island instead of one of the many popular tourist spots in the North Island for your break, you are probably feeling pretty chuffed with yourself.

And you are probably looking dry and tanned. Good for you, although I would suggest you don’t crow about it. In the current climate, there are no weather guarantees, and things could be very different next year.

A year is a very long time. In Auckland at the moment, one day is a very long time. Just ask the mayor, Wayne Brown.

By no means a production line public servant, Brown does things his way and is not one to use a filter on his comments.

Auckland voters liked his style enough to vote him into office last year in the hope that he would bulldoze through the red tape and get things done.

He would not have been prepared for the wild weather events of the past week or so. And that lack of preparation showed, particularly when it came to speaking with the media.

Things came to a somewhat farcical head when it was revealed yesterday that Brown had called journalists “drongos”, and blamed them for his having to cancel a round of tennis with friends as the city was desperately trying to cope with the aftermath of flooding that left four dead.

There has been plenty of criticism from all corners with regard to his handling of the disaster, including being slow off the mark to declare a state of emergency on Friday night.

Messages reportedly sent by Brown to his tennis buddies haven’t helped his cause. The tennis washout meant Brown had the time to do an interview he had already said he didn’t have the time for. Poor show.

Brown turned down yet another interview request, this time on Radio New Zealand, yesterday morning. Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson stepped into the breach and was a breath of fresh air by comparison.

It was as if she was from another world.

On the subject of talking to the media, she said: “I think, as his deputy, I am more than happy to do that role. I’m talking to you now; I’ll talk to you at any time. That’s my commitment to you and to Auckland.”

Simpson, not wanting to ruffle too many feathers, avoided answering questions about whether calling journalists ‘drongos’ was acceptable but finished with: “My focus is making sure that Auckland is prepared. It’s going to be a rough 24 hours, and I really appreciate you helping us get this message out.”

So tell me, how hard was that?

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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