The cover story of the latest Metro magazine is all about power in Auckland, and who wields it. However, like the Listener’s latest Power List, Metro’s attempt to explore the configurations of power in Auckland ends up being rather more celebratory and celebrity-focused than cerebral. Senior writer Simon Wilson has updated last February’s feature on The Auckland Influentials – this time seeking to provide ‘a hundred bite-sized chunks of knowledge about Auckland and how it works’. The focus is apparently on answering the questions of: ‘How does the city work? Who are the key people for getting things done?’. In the following blog post I’ve attempted to filter out some of the more important insights into the Auckland Establishment. Therefore, this post is a continuation of the series on liberation about Who runs New Zealand? [Read more below]
Metro’s article is made up of 100 so-called ‘secrets’, which don’t appear to be in any particular order. I’ve referred to them in the following discussion using their numbers in brackets as references.
The nature of the Auckland Establishment
The very first ‘secret’ of Auckland according to Metro’s list is the Northern Club in Princess St – which is ‘the most prestigious club in Auckland’, ‘where the rich and powerful like to rub shoulders with a few arty types’, and business is discussed in the private rooms. Apparently it ‘has around 1000 [invited] members, of whom 90 per cent are men, with an average age of 48’. Its website will tell you that it was founded in 1869, and decided to admit women members in 1991.
More detail is given on the nature of ‘The Auckland Establishment – at least in terms of ‘popular belief’: According to secret 49, The Establishment ‘lives in the eastern suburbs from Epsom to St Heliers, belongs to the Northern Club, the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron and the Remuera Golf Club and sends its kids to Grammar, King’s, Diocean and St Cuthbert’s’. Furthermore, The Auckland Establishment controls the law firm, the stockbrokers, and ‘they stick together. But that in itself doesn’t mean they are running things. Many of the Aucklanders on the annual NBR Rich List went to their local co-ed. So did most of National’s Auckland MPs’. Apparently, ‘One well-placed observer suggested to us that in the middle ranks of the big professional firms, it does make a difference where you went to school. But at the top, the city is a meritocracy.’
Freemasonry might be a traditional cornerstone of The Establishment in old New Zealand society – see Chris Trotter’s excellent post on this – but according to Metro, although Mayor ‘John Banks is a Freemason and so are many older business leaders, but there are few among the young’ .
Increasingly, the North Shore is important to The Establishment: It has most of the region’s growth and high numbers of conservatively voting South African and Korean immigrants, and has consolidated its status as a power base for the National Party.’ 
Where do they eat? According to secret +69, the restarants of choice are Merediths, Madame Jojo’s in Remurera, French Café, and Antoine’s in Parnell – which ‘was once the kitchen of choice for the New (now Old) Right: Michael Fay used to get takeout from the back door on his way home’. Metro points out that John Key ‘was smart enough to accept an invitation as guest speaker’ at Antoine’s recent 35th anniversary celebrations for 300 people at SkyCity – although, incidentally, Metro gets the anniversary wrong, stating it was their 30th anniversary .
To get involved with The Establishment, you can of course always go into politics, and Metro gives advice on getting into those parties of the modern Establishment – Labour and National: ‘If you want a future in the National Party, party historian Barry Gustafson will give you good advice’. Others in the party to impress, apparently, are Jim McLay and Scott Simpson . Meanwhile, ‘If you want a future in the [Labour] party, talk to Mark Gosche or Phil Twyford.’ Or Helen Clark.  Apparently, ‘The unions are currently in the ascendant, the liberals are strong and the Maori wing is in a mess.’
For a visual symbol of The Establishment, head down to the Viaduct, where you can see New Zealand’s richest man’s $120m yacht. Named Ulysses, Graeme Hart’s 192ft black-hulled launch is a full five-stories high . Apparently it's the largest luxury super yacht in Australasia.
The Powerful in Auckland
Who are the most influential people in Auckland? Metro sensibly kept away from dealing with the national politicians, and named the Top Three as: Tim Murphy (editor, NZ Herald), John Morris (headmaster of Auckland Grammar) and Mike Lee (chairman of the Auckland Regional Council) as the Top Three. It’s not hard to agree with the choice of Murphy, ‘whose political and social-issues campaigns do more to set the current affairs agenda in this town than any other media’.
John Morris is a bit more of an unconvincing choice – Metro says that he’s important because all schools in Auckland emulate what he does, and that ‘there probably wouldn’t be an ongoing debate about NCEA if Grammar had not led the opposition to it’.
Mike Lee is obviously a very important local body politician, which Metro suggests his greatest moment was killing off the waterfront stadium proposal in 2006. In 2008 he presented the 2008 Annual Bruce Jesson Memorial lecture (which can be found here).
The question Metro asks is: ‘Does he have the charisma to win a public election for mayor of a single super-city…? On the left, the field is wide open’.  Elsewhere in the feature, Metro says ‘Auckland deserves: a 2010 mayoral contest for a single super-city between John Banks and Helen Clark.’ 
Outside the Top Three, Metro say that Auckland deputy mayor David Hay is ‘the most powerful person in Auckland City politics’. This is because he’s the ‘leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers majority on the council, the deputy mayor and the person you most want to have on side for council decisions to go your way.’  John Banks, is therefore specifically labelled as someone ‘whose influence is less significant than you might think’.
Banks is apparently partly responsible however for the development of a number of rising stars. Protégé Sam Lotu-Iiga is now in Parliament, but ‘John Banks has several more protégés raring to go. They include councillors Aaron Bhatnagar and Paul Goldsmith and Banks’ “chief of staff” Nick Clelland-Stokes, who was a Democratic Alliance MP in South Africa before emigrating.’ 
The lobbying world gets a special mention in Metro’s 100 secrets. The magazine says that ‘Among the Auckland PR companies, Network is well set up with specialist experience in government relations’, ‘Mai Chen at Chen Palmer is the most highly regarded government relations specialist of all’, Auckland Law firm Chapman Tripp now uses Wellington-based and ex-politician Stephen Franks on the “public affairs” job, but the National Party lobbyist Matthew Hooton is cited as the most influential as all now that National is in power. His Auckland lobbying firm Exceltium ‘most obviously has the ear of the new Government’ which is evidence by the fact that Hooton’s ‘fingerprints are all over the accords John Key struck with both Act and the Maori Party’ . National Party ‘grandee Jim McLay’ is the Establishment personified… [and] he has the ear of the Prime Minister’ . Also of importance is National Party ‘backroom activist Scott Simpson, who is a former district chair and currently a member of he party’s board of directors’ 
Also in the Auckland PR world, but outside politics, is Deborah Pead – described by Metro as ‘the most powerful PR maven in town’, followed by Cathy Campbell. 
Other Auckland influentials include:
- Pita Sharples, who is ‘The most influential person in Auckland Maoridom’ and ‘almost universally liked.’ 
- Campbell Smith – ‘‘The most powerful person in Auckland music’. ‘He’s the Big Day Out promoter, manager to the stars… CEO of the Recording Industry Association (RIANZ)’. 
- Ricardo Simich: ‘the sly insider who can even swing you an introduction to the grandees of the National Party. Ricardo is the son of former Tamaki MP Clem Simich and he’s an events manager’. 
- Brian Rudman: ‘The long-time columnist for the Herald is the only person in the city who writes regularly and analytically about local politics. Essential reading if you want to keep up.’ 
- Current people to give a function status: Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester, Bic Runga, John Key, Helen Clark, etc. 
- ‘Geoff Ross, who became stonking rich when he sold 42 Below to Bacardi, enjoys direct access to John Key. In return, he makes Key look cool. Well, a little less uncool.’ 
- Julie Christie – runs television production company Eyeworks, which makes most reality television programmes. 
- Sara Tetro – ‘Auckland’s leading celebrity agent’, who runs 62 Models. 
- Oliver Driver: ‘He props up TV3’s cult morning show Sunrise, he’s co-owner of Alt TV, a freelance theatre director, an actor on stage and screen, a flourishing entrepreneur and an MC who can be hired for your next corporate do.’ 
Other Aucklanders with less power than is commonly assumed include Rick Ellis (CEO of TVNZ), Andrew Ferrier (CEO of Fonterra), and the two gossip queens, Rachel Glucina and Bridget Saunders. The justification for Ellis being downgraded is his inability to magically make the TVNZ charter work whereby Labour asked him to both return a dividend to the Government and deliver quality programming. Ferrier is publicly downgraded on the basis that New Zealand’s biggest company should by have been ‘well on the way to farming fart-free cows by now and selling the technology internationally… Instead he is known for the melamine scandal, which he did not cause, and little else’. Rachel Glucina and Bridget Saunders fail to deliver because although they ‘know everything salacious there is to know’, competing with this, ‘they are so constrained by defamination laws and their desire not to alienate their subjects that they tell us almost none of it.’
Whether or not Auckland is the city of the New Zealand Establishment can also be questioned by the fact that Metro notes that Auckland has ‘no top law firm’, nor ‘top firms in accountancy, merchant banking or stockbroking’. It says that there is no ‘First Family’ of commerce or a ‘is godfather of Auckland commerce’. The only contenders for this would be the Huljichs ‘family of successful investors’, but they are not ‘Family in the manner of the Myers and the Nathans of old’ . Auckland even now ‘lacks a charity queen’, after ‘that Rosie Horton has stepped down from her role at the Starship Hospital’ – although the daughter of Rosie, Roxanne Horton, is an ‘heir apparent’. 
The state of Auckland
Apart from pointing to the powerful in Auckland, the Metro feature also throws up a few interesting facts and figures that provide a greater insight into the nature of modern Auckland.
In terms of the economy, ‘Auckland is not the economic powerhouse it’s supposed to be. The local economy grew by only 1.1 per cent in the 2007-08 year, compared with three per cent for the country overall’  Related to this, ‘the immigration boom is over’; the council expects it to drop to zero by 2010’. Also ‘the new economy is not doing the business’, with very few technologically-advanced growth. Although so-called economic ‘incubators’ and investment ‘angels’ are big in Auckland. ‘One of the biggest angels is Stephen Tindall’s venture capital company K1W1, which has invested in more than 100 startups’  Property developers now have a very bad name in Auckland. Metro jokes that these ‘champions of entrepreneurialism and/or the embodiment of civic vandalism’ are looking for a new name, which might be ‘infrastructuralists’! 
There are 80,000 workers in the central business district, and 70,000 students . 38,000 of these students attend the world’s 65th best university – the University of Auckland – which apparently has, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, the 39th best arts and humanities faculty (‘due especially to political studies, philosophy and law’) . The university has an annual income of $740 million .
Houses ‘in the heart of the Grammar Zone (giving a guaranteed right of enrolment at Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls) cost on average $165,500 more than houses just outside the zone.’ 
The alcohol industry in Auckland – and New Zealand as a whole – is dominated by a few big players: ‘Half the wine lists in the city (in the country actually) are written by one company: Pernod Ricard, which owns Montana and all its associated brands… It’s a bit the same with pubs, of course. DB give you Monteith’s on tap; Lion pubs feature the Mac’s range.’ 
And while ‘there are 35 cosmetic surgeons in Auckland’ , ‘There are 28 different initiatives to deal with youth gangs in South Auckland’ .
A note about Metro’s approach to studying the powerful
Metro’s ‘Secrets of Auckland’ is a disappointing magazine feature for many reasons. Although it contains a few interesting insights, and this blog post has attempted to draw the more important elements of the Metro list out, the feature is less than it should be. Previously the magazine has published more overt articles about The Establishment of Auckland, and in many ways this latest feature is part of an ongoing annual examination of power in the city. Last February the magazine published ‘The Auckland Influentials’, which looked at ‘Aucklanders in their 40s and younger who will make a difference in their fields over the next decade’ - I covered it here.
Essentially Simon Wilson appears to have been commissioned to do the annual update, but this time the serious and analytical thrust of the exercise has been consciously buried into a new more sensationalist and lifestyle approach. Hence this year’s feature is sold not as an examination of ‘who are the powerful in Auckland’, but as ‘a hundred bite-sized chunks of knowledge about Auckland and how it works’ and as answering the questions of: ‘How does the city work? Who are the key people for getting things done?’ Hence amongst the ‘secrets’ are details about such helpful tips about getting cheaper tickets to the theatre. The focus on the secretive aspect of the story is also, of course, about the discovery of surprisingly unknown facts and tips rather than uncovering what The Establishment are up to. The cover image of the magazine reinforces this more lifestyle focus.
This shift runs in parallel with the dumbing down of the Listener’s annual Power List. As I’ve noted elsewhere, this year’s the Power List was promoted – especially on the cover – in the most celebratory and sparkly way ever, reminiscent more of the Women’s Weekly or TV Guide.
It now seems that two of the more serious and useful New Zealand magazines are losing (or have lost?) their more sociological or critical approach to examining power, which is a shame. Also interestingly, there is no sign of the article eventually being online – as Metro’s Metrolive website seems to have taken down recently.