Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says Auckland mayor Wayne Brown requested more communications staff days after saying council had too many

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown requested more experienced staff to help with the flood response just days after saying the council had too many communications employees. 

Brown's response to the flood has been heavily criticised with calls for him to resign.

A petition set up to remove him as Auckland Mayor has more than 9000 signatures as of Monday morning.

Appearing on AM, Hipkins said Brown's response to the flooding is "not for me to judge" but understands Aucklanders will have a view on that.

He also confirmed Brown asked for extra communications staff to support the response in the coming days. 

"My conversations with him over the weekend, he indicated he'd like some more senior emergency response experience to be fed into the team. So we've sent up the director of emergency response from NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency)," Hipkins told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"He also asked for some additional comms support. So we've sent up the director of communications from NEMA to make sure that we've got people on the ground there who can provide the sort of support that they are asking for." 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Photo credit: AM

On Saturday, Brown suggested there were too many communications employees at Auckland Council, which was hampering getting messaging out.

At a media conference on Saturday afternoon, the Auckland mayor was questioned on comments other councillors made on Friday night, including some who called for a state of emergency to be called earlier.

"One or two of our councillors chose to communicate but there's no sense communicating things that are just your view, you have to communicate facts and the facts were coming from [Civil Defence] and I'm driven by that," Brown said. 

"The other part about it is we have perhaps too many spokespersons for the council. At other councils, I would give those [messages] but if everyone else wants to compete with you, that in itself is confusing.

"If I can be drowned out by other people then they're not going to hear what I'm saying."

Hipkins said the Minister for Emergency Management, Kieran McAnulty, and Brown were in "regular contact" from early to late afternoon onwards on Friday. 

Communication wasn't just an issue for Brown, with Hipkins taking aim at Waka Kotahi New Zealand Agency (NZTA) after its social media team logged off at 7:30pm on Friday just as the worst of the flooding was hitting Auckland.

"I think they clearly underestimated the situation that they were dealing with. They did log off at around 7:30pm. The Minister, Michael Wood, as soon as he became aware of that, was in touch with them and they went back into the office and logged back on again," Hipkins said, 

"Look, of course I'm not happy about that. I don't think the minister was happy about that either and made it very clear to them that we expected them to be back online and provide regular updates, and they did do that. But yes, they shouldn't have logged off." 

Watch the full interview with Chris Hipkins above.