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Just two Auckland business leaders in a room of some 200 could muster questions for Auckand mayor Len Brown at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch today.
Mr Brown – who, after Prime Minister John Key, is arguably New Zealand's most powerful politician – and council chief executive Doug McKay, the man in charge of the city's controversial $3 billion budget, spoke to a group of top business people at the SkyCity convention centre while they lunched on gourmet food.
The guest list included chief executives, lawyers, captains of industry and company directors from entities such as Genesis Energy, BNZ, Westpac, Barfoot & Thompson and Beca.
While Messrs Brown and McKay spent most of their speaking time reflecting on the past two years, guests were invited to ask questions at the end.
Only two people – Takapuna Beach Business Association general manager Peter White, and senior vice-president of Capgemini, Shelley Oldham – put their hands up with questions about council debt and public transport.
Because of the distinct lack of interest from the audience, the event MC and co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, Alison Harrison, asked three questions herself.
Ms Harrison asked Mr Brown if the city should be paying for the proposed rail loop development.
She also asked Mr McKay whether the council's resource consent processes were a roadblock to development, and whether the council should be involved in economic development.
It is fair to say the answers were long and convoluted.
Following the prime minister and other members of cabinet, Auckland's mayor is one of the most important public figures in the country, taking charge of a city which produces a third of the nation's GDP.
The lack of interest from the business leaders at today's event could simply be the result of post-lunch fatigue.
But it raises the question of what members of the Business Circle get from such events or if they are agree with what Mayor Brown – currently an unchallenged shoe-in for re-election this year – does.
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