A stoush broke out between candidates at an Auckland mayoral debate last night, with Alezix Heneti berating David Hay for his support of Phil Goff.
The Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA)-sponsored event, titled the Anti-Debate, was meant to give a platform to lesser-known candidates.
But as they closed their statements, Ms Heneti took exception to the appearance of latecomer Mr Hay, who announced earlier in the day he was endorsing Phil Goff.
As she left the stage, Ms Heneti accosted Mr Hay, shouting: “You do not deserve the 30 seconds, you’ve pulled out. You need to leave.”
Mr Hay had sold out to Mr Goff, Ms Heneti said, telling him: “Get out. You don’t belong here.”
Debate moderator, political blogger Martyn Bradbury, tried to calm matters, while fellow candidate Chlöe Swarbrick attempted to mediate. But the argument, which unfolded at the university’s Shadows bar, only became more heated.
“You cannot withdraw from the mayoral race unless you go mad or die. I am not dead, but I may be mad, Mr Hay told Ms Heneti.
“You came in at the last minute, you’re a no-hoper.”
The fight went on for several minutes but Mr Hay said he was not shaken by the incident.
“It’s political theatre. It’s fun. They give you crazy and you give them crazy back. That’s how it works. I’ve done politics for years. I think it probably wound up the evening with a nice bang.”
It was Mr Hay’s last public appearance after his declaration in support of Mr Goff.
Event organiser Sarah Butterfield of AUSA was surprised by Ms Heneti’s outburst.
“David withdrew today, and we thought ‘let him come along and have a little bit of a say about why he pulled out and who he’s backing’. And I just was not expecting that, it’s a bit of a shock.”
Ms Heneti said her reaction was prompted by feelings of betrayal.
“He went public with the newspapers today, and he said that Phil Goff has to be mayor and he’s standing down so Phil can win.
“He had the gall to walk in here and say that it was OK for him to be here with those who are still fighting the good fight. What he did was immoral and unscrupulous.
Mr Bradbury had a positive take on the incident.
“Politics is a rough-and-tumble game and sometimes it’s quite raw. And it’s important to see that because there is passion involved, people do get very fired up about it.
“We’ve had such a dull debate going into the Auckland mayoralty, and it has been very stale. Things like this remind people and voters that there’s a reason you should get emotional and angry about politics.”
Mr Hay is a former member of the Green Party and council employee, standing in the Auckland mayoral election as an independent candidate. He is also standing for the Howick Ward.
Ms Heneti has stood for the mayoralty four times since 1998 and advocates the introduction of a Kiwi Disneyland on Auckland’s North Shore. She is also standing for the Albany Ward.
The fiery exchange between the two mayoral candidates last night. Video: Nikolaj Sander