|This is the first in a series of columns in which Trevor Barnard observes and interprets the activities of the conservative and frequently homophobic new Auckland City Council, its deputy mayor David Hay and mayor John Banks. Trevor Barnard is an openly gay past Auckland City councillor, general election candidate and a member of The Alliance. Given that Aucklanders, by an underwhelming minority, have voted in well known homophobe John Banks as Mayor of the Queen city it's time we as a community start discussion on a plan to deal with the new Mayor of Auckland City - before he deals to us.
Just as surely as a hangover follows a hard night out so attacks on us and our place in society will follow because, let's face it, Banks and Hay won't be able to help themselves. So, just when you thought this column was a guide to all the clubs and venues in Auckland or (more importantly) just when you thought your place as a valued citizen in this fair and prosperous city was firmly in place, you were wrong. The October local body election saw the changing of the Mayoralty from that ever so 'nice' and liberal Christine Fletcher to the notoriously homophobic John Banks. More importantly the finely balanced Council of the previous three years also tipped over with left-leaning Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker being replaced by the equally notorious and possibly even more homophobic Councillor Hay. This all because in the wins and losses of the election the good people of Eden/Albert ward returned two right wing CitRat councillors and one left wing City Vision councillor compared to the pre-election situation of two City Vision and one Cit Rat councillor in that ward. The net loss of one Councillor from the left was all it took for opportunistic independents like Cr Christian (by name but not by nature?) to hive off back to the CitRats where he originally came from and so pull the plug on Bruce Hucker. Now we are faced with a council where not only will voting will be in the main 12:8 against us but where the two leaders of the city have no qualms at all about gaybashing. And this is for the next three years. The only consolation in the whole election is that because 50% of people don't vote you can safely say 75% of Aucklanders didn't vote for Banks. With Banks's campaign theme to provide 'leadership' you might hope to see him act in the inclusive, non-divisive and uniting way that the elected mayors of virtually every city do, and we will not see him delve into the tactics of previous homophobe Mayor Les Mills (he who creams it from our community through a string gymnasia by the same name). Remember those days of Mills and Hay (with video camera in tow) failing to provide any support at all for Hero and saying it was all about 'decency'. Those were tactics clearly designed to marginalise, discriminate and generally denigrate our value as participants of any standing or worth in our city. So attacks from Hay and Banks are surely inevitable and it is not just because they won't be able to help themselves but because there will be opportunities all along the way for them to do so. Banks loves to shoot from the lip and he loves the media attention. Not only will he say anything to get elected (a tunnel under Hobson Bay!) but he is not afraid to take on minority groups. Already with six weeks since the election he's had a go at pensioners and plans to sell off their Council owned pension housing units - despite their wrath and the upset that it is causing them in their 'twilight years'. If he's not afraid of a fight or a bad headline what's the betting he will pick a fight either over the funding for Hero or the Pride Centre or that with his stated aim of making the city 'safe' he asks the police to crack down on the beats. How are we going to respond when these things happen? United and in volume I would hope. Nothing would be worse than to let an attack on us as a community slip by. Self esteem and well-being is a precious commodity to everyone but especially to us. As gays we all struggle daily against rampant heterosexuality. Lets face it schools are not a safe place for young gays; work places can also be difficult let alone the neighbours. So don't let the mayor of our city get away with even thinking he can do us over. This is Auckland after all, and not Bankstown. Trevor Barnard - 7th December 2001