Wayne Brown regrets 'drongos' text, says communication needs to improve

Thu, Feb 2
Desley Simpson (left) and Wayne Brown (centre right) speaking to emergency response coordinators on Saturday.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has apologised for calling the media "drongos" in a text and says he has been flat out dealing with the floods and emergency coordination.

It's the mayor's first interview in several days amid calls for him to resign after accusations he mishandled the response to Auckland's unprecedented flooding.

Brown told Newshub that he had been too busy to answer interview requests from news media.

"It's the first time there's been a break in the weather to do this," he said.

"I've been kind of buried in the need to improve the communications from not just ourselves, but from the Auckland Emergency Management Group.

"I've been responding to helpful suggestions from the government. We've instituted the emergency management twice-daily briefings to get things better - it's been a huge improvement.

He said there had been "an awful lot of emergency coordination to be doing, and there just hasn't been time to deal" with the media. The mayor said he had been "out and about" with building inspection teams "from early in the day to late in the evenings".

"I know that it's important that I have a good working relationship with the media, but it's my time has been rammed with emergency situations."

Brown said over 200 lifts are out of action in CBD apartment buildings - with some elderly residents stuck behind "quite a few" flights of stairs.

He said he had brought the plight of apartment residents in the city centre to the attention of emergency management officials.

"There's a number of people in multi-storey apartment buildings that are kind of semi-isolated because, although there's no damage to the building, there are over 200 lifts not working in Auckland City," the mayor said.

"And some elderly people are up quite a few stories that have been missed by the welfare and the emergency people."

He said authorities had been focusing on people with higher-priority situations, like those who had lost their homes to flooding.

"Yesterday, I brought it to their attention, and it's to their attention now.

"I knew one day before, but I didn't know how widespread it was."

The mayor also commented that he "shouldn't have said the word drongo" in texts to friends cancelling a tennis game on Saturday.

"I probably shouldn't have said the word drongo to a couple of friends of mine, but I was just explaining why I couldn't turn up to tennis that particular day," he said.

"I regret it was made public, it was probably inappropriate, but I do recognise the important role media play in an emergency.

"I'm never going to be a smooth-talking politician and I do need to improve my communication."

Brown also responded to a leaked email to local body representatives, which indicated that he wanted councillors to focus on talking about their local communities.

"I've encouraged local members to be vocal within their community as much as they want and about their local issues and fed those back into us," he said.

"But what I'm trying to get is the need for a region-wide overall communications coordinated system - which is managed out of the mayor's office."

Yesterday, North Shore councillor Chris Darby called Brown's ask "ludicrous".

He found it hypocritical that the mayor wanted to take the lead when other councillors had already been doing that. Darby said a number of them "stepped up" when they saw "an information void and lack of political lead".

"From my observation, they responded to media approaches and acquitted themselves well, and without the benefit of comms expertise," he wrote in a reply-all email to Brown.

"That should continue with councillors with regional responsibilities and local board members with local responsibilities conveying messages and telling regional and local stories."

When asked, Brown said he learned of Michael Wood's appointment to a new Minister for Auckland role at the same time as the rest of the public.


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