Auckland mayoral candidates egged in lively university debate

Source: 1News

Some of Auckland's mayoral candidates may be off to the dry cleaners after an egging at a spirited Tuesday night debate.

Second-time mayoral candidate and New Conservative co-leader Ted Johnston was among a line-up of six at the University of Auckland Debating Society debate moderated by Q+A's Jack Tame.

Johnston found himself on the receiving ends of two eggs. The first hit his shoulder and the second missed and splattered liquid on fellow second-time candidate Craig Lord.

The crowd of about 120 mostly younger people was lively throughout the two-hour event. But, they got especially loud as Johnston suggested council needed to be put on a budgeting course to learn the difference between spending on essential and wishlist items.

"Team Efeso, can you please keep quiet?" Johnston said about the noise from the audience, referring to Labour and Green Party-endorsed candidate Efeso Collins.

The group quietened down. Then, a whistle was heard from someone in the crowd. The person later confirmed to 1News that it was a vocal tic and she had Tourette's.

"There you go, keep it up Team Efeso," Johnston said ironically.

He tried to get back on track and asked the audience to "calm down". As he did so, a separate person in the audience ran down the stairs of the lecture hall and threw the eggs before bolting away.

Moderator Tame intervened and asked everyone to pause.

"I think Ted has made an ignorant comment, through ignorance," Tame began.

"Which ignorant comment is it? We don't know," Johnston replied.

"There's been a misunderstanding," Tame continued.

"I'm going to speak on behalf of Ted and say we owe him the benefit of the doubt and hope if he'd known the situation, he would've made a less ignorant comment. So, I'm sorry to that person Ted has spoken to."

After a quiet explanation from Tame, Johnston apologised and said he didn't know the person had Tourette's.

He said he wasn't bothered by the eggs because he'd been a bouncer for 10 years.

The aftermath of the egging incident.

As the debate continued, another person piped up and apologised to the candidates on behalf of the audience for the heckling. She said she didn't support what Johnston had said but didn't think it was right he was egged.

In response, mayoral candidate Leo Molloy told the audience "I think you're all amazing".

"We've done about 50 debates, it seems like that anyway, and we feel like we're speaking at an old peoples' home most of the time."

After the debate, Johnston said he was addressing a group who seemed to be supporting Collins. He said he was talking to others, rather than the person with Tourette's who he didn't notice until later.

"I apologised because some people took offence to what I said. Of course, I would have never said anything to a person with Tourette's, and I apologise because they took it that way."

That person, who 1News has chosen not to name, said she didn't know the person who threw the eggs. She also said she didn't know why she and her friends were identified as "team Efeso".

She said it didn't seem like Johnston addressed the whole group because he commented soon after she ticced.

"I fundamentally do not care he did it because it's an honest mistake; it's a lack of critical thinking.

"But how he responded afterwards is very emblematic because he could have used it as an opportunity to say, 'I'm sorry, I learnt from this, I didn't really know about Tourette's syndrome.' In fact, it could have been a really, really big thing."

A Debating Society organiser said they had no idea there would be an egging.