Auckland mayoral candidates came close to “a brawl” at a debate on Tuesday night, after a screaming war of words descended into a shoving match.
David Hay, who earlier informally pulled out of the mayoral race and threw his support behind Phil Goff, was abused by rival Alezix Heneti as he tried to make a speech at the debate, which was hosted by Auckland University Students’ Association at university bar, Shadows.
Hay arrived late from another meeting, but was given permission by a students’ association representative to make a 30-second statement.
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate Adam Holland – dressed in a kaftan – then commandeered the mic to yell “vote for me! Vote for me!”.
As 22-year-old mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick stepped in between Hay and Heneti, Holland continued his commentary: “There’s going to be brawl! Ooh, I can feel a brawl!”
And just in case the debate hadn’t become a complete farce, Holland began screaming “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for “God is great” – as Heneti and Hay continued to yell at each other.
Swarbrick later told One News that Heneti “was pushing me aside quite a bit”, but with seven years of karate and two years of Muay Thai under her belt, she wasn’t afraid to intervene.
The young candidate said she stood up for Hay because he’s “an incredibly nice, polite man” who, alongside Goff, had driven her to campaign meetings.
“Yes, him pulling out – it is unfortunate that he decided to throw his weight behind Phil … but all the same I believe in dialogue – dialogue and critique are the basis of a good democratic process,” she said.
Hay – who was booted out of the Green Party in 2014 after challenging then-leader Russel Norman – announced his support for Goff on Saturday, and called for Auckland’s voting system to change from First Past the Post to Single Transferable Vote, a system used by other councils, saying the status quo created an unfair two-horse mayoral race.
Hay posted a video of Tuesday’s fracas online, and said he’d planned to make a statement on the voting system at the debate, before he was shouted down.
He said the debate turned out to be the most exciting one so far on the campaign.
“Great political theatre!” he said.