October 3, 2023

Auckland Mayor says he knows who leaked infamous ‘drongo’ comments, defends backseat approach to Cyclone Gabrielle

Related video: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown speaks with AM earlier this month.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown says he knows who leaked his infamous “drongo” comments about the media during the Auckland floods last month. 

Brown’s response to the Auckland floods was heavily criticised, where he was accessed of lacking communication during the deluge. 

It saw calls for him to resign with a petition set up to remove him as Aukland Mayor that received over 26,500 signatures. 

It was later revealed in a leaked WhatsApp message published by NZ Herald that showed him complaining about missing out on playing tennis during the Auckland flooding emergency last month because “I’ve got to deal with media drongos over the flooding tomorrow”.

A few days later after, Brown admitted he shouldn’t have called journalists “drongos” and regretted the text message. 

“I’m never going to be a smooth-talking politician and I do need to improve my communication,” Brown told AM earlier this month. 

“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.

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

In an interview with the Herald published on Sunday, Brown believes he knows the person who leaked the WhatsApp message from his tennis group.

He also defended his backseat approach to the January 27 Auckland flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle, with deputy mayor Desley Simpson doing more media appearances. 

Brown told the Herald the media had not been his focus and had been out every day with building inspectors, geotechnical engineers, visiting broken bridges and picking up rubbish with the student volunteer army and navy groups.

“I’m determined we learn the lessons. We have had reports into floods before and they don’t do the things that are recommended. So that’s where I’ve been. That’s my skill set,” Brown said. 

Brown also revealed he suffered a back injury when he was helping to unload an army truck when he picked up a 40kg carton of tinned goods from a young guy.

When asked if his media strategy was a weakness, Brown said his focus is on fixing Auckland. 

“My focus is to fix Auckland for the ratepayers and the citizens…I don’t think it is necessary to give a lot of one-on-one interviews … my days are really full from dawn to dark,” Brown said.

“I’d like to see the media focus on the big issues that matter to Aucklanders rather than the number of interviews I do or don’t do. In fact, I would be happy to have more balanced reporting. I would be happy to answer more sensible, searching questions about the big issues.”

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