The third horse? Craig Lord on his case to be Auckland’s next mayor

After coming third in 2019, Lord says he has a chance in 2022, whatever the polls might say.

When you call Craig Lord, his number comes up as Gettingmarried.co.nz. That’s the business through which he operates as a marriage celebrant – “if you want a boring celebrant then you need to look elsewhere”, the site declares. It forms part of the “mixed bag” of gigs that occupy the self-described freelance media operator. There’s another gig he’s after, however: mayor of Auckland. He took on the challenge as a kind of dare, he says, but he’s taking it very seriously.

In the latest Curia poll, Lord sits on 5%, trailing Wayne Brown (19%) and Efeso Collins (18%). Since the withdrawal of Leo Molloy and, more recently, Viv Beck, media outlets – this one included – have tended to describe the contest as a two-horse race. Craig Lord says that’s nonsense, that he’s the true bearer of the centre-right torch. So who is the third horse, and why does he think he’s in the race?

The Spinoff: Voting packs are out, and a lot of people will be paying attention to the local elections for the first time. In Auckland, some will be asking: who is this Craig Lord guy? Give us the abbreviated version.

Craig Lord: I grew up in a little town called Putaruru. I rode my motorbike up to Auckland after seeing an ad in the Herald for a job, got the job that day, rang the old man and said I’m leaving home and moving to Auckland. I’ve been here ever since.

I trained in the job – hydraulic and pneumatic maintenance and diagnostics engineer – and stayed 16 years in the trade. Then I decided to do something completely bizarre. I went out into the world of freelance media. I wanted to scratch out a career working in motorsport. I loved motorsports. I went through a few different things, working out how to earn an income. There was magazine work, photography and covering events, and it expanded from there, a mixed bag of anything where I either get paid to write or talk for a living.

The marriage celebrant became a fun, natural fit. So I’ve been doing that for quite a few years. That’s basically who I am. I met my wife when I was 17, we’ve been together 32-odd years, married 26. My daughter is 25 in a couple of months, and my son is 21 next month.

It’s not quite motorsport, but horse racing is the default metaphor for elections, and the Auckland contest is being called a two-horse race. Why is that wrong?

Unfortunately, the only gauge the media have got is the polls. And the polls are not realistic – especially when there are so many undecided. The media pick up on those and say, they’re the front runners, these polls say so. We get a different feeling. Out there in the world of real people, on social media, and out on the streets, at the Q&As and candidate debates, the feedback is awesome. So I don’t believe the narrative of a two-horse race is correct.

Do you have a view on STV – might you be getting more attention if that system was in place in Auckland?

I’ve read up on it. I wouldn’t say I’ve analyzed it heavily. It’s not a bad idea. It’s pretty intriguing. Would I be for it? I don’t know. But it certainly comes across as being a pretty clever system.

This is your second run for the Auckland mayoralty, but you’re not going for council again. Why not?

Back in 2018 When I originally put my hand up, it was almost a dare. Just a friend of mine and me chatting about council and rates. He said, “Go on bro, you like to sort things out, put your hand up and do it.” So I did. Coming third in 2019 told me that I was onto something. I’d always planned to make it a four-year job application. I thought, yes, this is doable.

I felt hedging my bets by standing also for council would be insincere to my support base who were pushing for me to be mayor, like I wasn’t taking it seriously. And there is another pragmatic reason. You can weaponise your opponents. They can say, well, obviously, this person is not confident, not serious about the job.

The mayor is of course just one of a number of people around the council table. But there is a power in a mandate. If you were elected mayor, what would you say was your political priority, that they must come with you on?

I’ve been very clear on my messages for the last four years. I’ve added to them and tweaked them, but I want the council to focus on being the core service provider. It’s funny, I’m getting so many messages from candidates around the country who say, we’ve seen what your policies are, and we’re looking at the same thing.

That’s what I want to push to the councilors and to the staff. Our job is a service. That’s what we are. So that will be my strong mandate, my push and vision, that every councilor realizes what we’re actually here for. We’re not here to build our own empires. We’re not here to push our own desires and our own ideology. We are here to serve the people.

What about your big ideas on transport – the overhead pod idea?

Yes, I’ve got different ideas to anyone else. In regards to public transport, I know what I say it’s controversial, but I do not believe Auckland can actually solve its public mass transport problem, and that’s due to the topography of Auckland and the way we’ve built the city over the last 180 years. I do feel slightly sorry for Auckland Transport because they’re trying to create a transit system around a really bad area.

There are three ways. You can tunnel everywhere and create subways – that’s never gonna happen, we’ll never get the money. You can do a scorched earth policy and remove a lot of buildings and properties – we’ve seen the problems that causes. Or you can go above ground. They’ve done that successfully overseas – they’ve also done it unsuccessfully. But if you learn from the good and the bad, I still think that with the way modern technology is going, the way magnets are working, it’s no longer the old monorail. It’s developing very, very quickly.

We’ve seen recently the Christchurch City Council in effect flipping the bird at central government over housing density edicts. What did you make of that, both in substance and gesture?

I said the same thing to my mate: “Do you see what Christchurch has done? They’re flipping the bird!” I fully disagree with the plan the government is imposing. I think the Auckland Unitary Plan, while it has its own issues, was a way better approach. I have said on the campaign trail that I’ll use every legal tool and piece of influence available to not accept the government’s proposal. If the people give me a mandate to say no to the government then, like Christchurch, I’m willing to do that.

Are you related to or have you had an endorsement from the singer-songwriter Lorde?

Well, but wouldn’t it be good? I’ve got a feeling she’d run with Efeso, probably. She’s an artist, and they seem to go that way. But it would be nice. My endorsements have been coming from the mass of supporters online, and I’m thrilled with that.

If the polls are even remotely right you’d need a miracle at this point. Can you achieve a miracle? Are you fired up?

Yes. 100% I’m punching all the way to the last day. The difference between what the thousands of people polled say and the thousands of people that I reach out on the street and social media – they’re the complete opposite.

The above is edited for clarity and brevity.


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