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Editorial: Will Len Brown be good for glbt Auckland?

Sat 9 Oct 2010 In: Features View at NDHA

Len Brown (pic: TV3) Glbt residents of the newly pumped up Auckland City will be wondering what they have in newly-elected mayor Len Brown. Firstly, and blindingly obviously, having Len Brown means they haven't got John Banks. Seasoned local body politician Bruce Kilmister said it for everyone when he opined to this afternoon that Banks would say whatever he wanted to say and mean none of it. Banks' conversion from serial gay-baiter to the 'kinder, gentler Banksie' never felt genuine. Yet Len Brown is not quite the angel of deliverance some are painting him as either. When the left-leaning and generally glbt-supportive City Vision grouping of local body candidates looked for a mayoral hopeful to endorse, Brown got the nod because there was no other left-leaning mayoral candidate with any show of ousting Banks. There may now be some airbrushing around this matter but, frankly, Brown got their endorsement by default, not through enthusiasm. Why? Nothing too disturbing, just lots of unease. From a glbt perspective Brown's high-profile embracing of ethnic minorities highlights fears that, by comparison, his religious convictions might be skewing him away from recognising the validity and needs of sexual minorities. His cosiness with gay-hating Destiny Church fuels this unease, as does the lack of support for at risk transgender youth exhibited by the Manukau City Council during his mayoralty. However, it's worth remembering that a mayor has only one vote on a council. Perhaps turning around the traditionally conservative Manukau council was too much of an ask. Perhaps Len Brown will let his liberal inclusive instincts overcome any need to pander to the religious and political right, particularly in the new super-sized Auckland council with its strong list to the left. Without the malignant influence of the likes of David Hay to counter his liberal leanings and with proven inclusive and glbt-friendly councillors such as Christine Fletcher, Richard Northey and Cathy Casey to support him (centre-right Fletcher must surely be in contention for the deputy mayor slot) Len Brown may yet come to characterise the truly varied population he now represents. From a glbt perspective Len Brown may not have been the perfect choice to front the new Auckland but he could easily grow into the job. A few other gay and lesbian comings and goings are worth note. Jenny Rowan is back as Mayor of Kapiti Coast. She's massively competent and hasn't put a step wrong and has earned respect for that. Sam Johnson has entered the fray as an out gay man who now sits on the Riccarton/Wigram community board in Christchurch. Johnson made no bones of his sexuality and the generally conservative Chch folk, aided and abetted by a significant university student population in that area, have decided to give him a go. Well done. Sadly, two of the grand old men of glbt politics missed out yesterday and we should note their contributions. Jim Anderton missed out on the Christchurch mayoralty and many feel he was robbed by the earthquake factor. In his long parliamentary career Anderton has been staunch in his support for glbt initiatives and, should he leave parliament at the end of this term as seems possible, we will lose a valued friend in high places. Avuncular on the outside and steely determined inside, gay rights and HIV people's advocate Bruce Kilmister has been a powerful presence in central Auckland politics for almost a decade. He has gained respect across the political spectrum and has ensured that the inner-city's glbt residents have had a passionate and capable presence near the centre of local body power and influence. - Jay Bennie Jay Bennie - 9th October 2010

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Saturday, 9th October 2010 - 10:09pm

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