Nobody likes being called names, least of all North Shore mayor Andrew Williams. After the outsider wrestled the city's weighty chain of office and $350 million budget from the incumbent in 2007, Williams now believes he has the qualities necessary to become mayor of the new Auckland super-city.
The problem, he said, is that he is being "victimised" by a "nasty and vicious super-city faction" that is out to get him and seize control of the big new council proposed for the region.
He named right-wing Auckland politicians and bloggers, including the author of the Whaleoil blog, who calls him "the Mad Mayor" and "the Clown of Campbells Bay".
But now the criticism is coming thick and fast: Television's Breakfast show labelled him "egg of the week" for spending $1300 of ratepayers' money on Stop Banks sauvignon blanc for the council chambers; NZ Herald columnist John Roughan tagged him "North Shore's panjandrum", and the Herald on Sunday's Dylan Cleaver dubbed him "a joyless sod" for his objection to an Auckland bid for the Commonwealth Games.
Williams is increasingly responding in kind.
Yesterday morning he emailed arch-critic Cameron Slater, the Whaleoil author, with one word: "Tosser!". Earlier this week he called blogger Darren Rickard a "selfish nasty person"; he called email correspondent Stan Blanch a "loser" and a "tosser" ; and a few months ago he left a council meeting in haste after he called councillor Chris Darby a "smart arse".
His own councillors are now divided about the image he presents of the North Shore. The concerns were exacerbated by his absence - cycling around Central Otago - when the region's leaders gathered for the publication of the Royal Commission's report on Friday.
Most were quick to back Williams yesterday, saying he was a tireless campaigner who was prepared to speak up on tough issues.
"I think there's a silent minority who quietly say 'Good on you, mate'," said Callum Blair. "There's a noisy minority who are trying to attack him."
But Ann Hartley, supported by two others, said: "He's burned his bridges on so many issues on the Shore and offended so many people. I don't think he'd get elected as mayor of North Shore again, let alone anywhere else."
Williams was unperturbed about the criticism, blaming it on a "faction" led by Slater, Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar and the Newmarket Business Association's Cameron Brewer.
"They're all over there in a super-city faction wanting to get control of greater Auckland," he said yesterday. "They attack anyone who opposes them, and they do it in a particularly nasty and vicious manner."
A vocal opponent of a one-city structure, he said the holiday had been planned months in advance and he couldn't return when the report was released early.
Favourite in a crowded field:
Auckland Mayor John Banks is the favourite for the race to be Auckland's first super mayor, but it's shaping up to be a crowded field. North Shore mayor Andrew Williams hasn't ruled out standing but added there was "a lot of water to go under the bridge".
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee wants to see the city structure sorted out before making any decision. He said the candidate would need to be someone with a vision for Auckland, who can work collegially.
Broadcaster and columnist Paul Holmes said the increased powers of the new mayor to "get things done" were attractive. However, it was too early to say whether he would run. "I'll be talking about it with friends, and running it past she who must be obeyed."
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