Penny Bright was a 'kindred spirit' - John Banks

Former Auckland Mayor John Banks has paid tribute to one of his fiercest critics, calling Penny Bright a "rebel without a pause" and a "kindred spirit".

Ms Bright died on Thursday after battling ovarian cancer. The 64-year-old was known for her decades of grassroots activism, much of it directed at Auckland Council and its predecessor, the Auckland City Council, which Mr Banks twice led as Mayor.

"I knew when I was in real trouble, I knew we had to get the police to remove her long before we did, because she would refer to me as 'John Banks' and 'look at me while I'm talking to you please John Banks'," Mr Banks told RadioLIVE on Friday.

"I knew that that council meeting on that night would be trouble. But if she called me 'Banksy', I knew it would be okay so we wouldn't have to worry about getting her out of the place."

The pair were unlikely friends - he the veteran politician on the right of the political spectrum, she forever an outsider who thought the system was rotten.

"She was a rebel without a pause. She had determination through her veins. Her heart was always in the right place. Yes, she could be dogmatic, pedantic, obsessive, obstructive and all of those things, but in hindsight she gave us periodic cold showers - and kept us on our toes."

So it came as a surprise to many when Mr Banks visited Ms Bright on her deathbed a few weeks ago, when doctors told her she had only days to live.

"She gave me a call and said 'would you like to come and see me?' She's a sister of mine, isn't she? After all, we're all in this world together. I'm obnoxious, I'm dogmatic, pedantic, obsessive, obstructive, I'm all those things. We're kindred spirits, really."

He held her hand for 15 minutes.

"She held on tight and she smiled most of the time - until she reminded me I had to look her in the eyes when I was talking to her, John Banks. She gave me the message.

"Right to the end she was her own person - we don't have enough of them. I like rebels and I like protesters and I like people who passionately believe."

It was during Mr Banks' second tenure as Mayor that Ms Bright stopped paying her rates in protest at what she saw as a lack of transparency from the council. Ms Bright would later blame the legal battle she fought with Auckland Council over her rates for her cancer.

Mr Banks said it was ovarian cancer is a "wicked problem for women", and he hopes Ms Bright's experience would inspire women to get check-ups.

"I just wanted to say thank you Penny, and good luck on the ride to heaven on the wings of angels."


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