Q+A: Phil Goff
Bad Stats Will Be My First Focus:
The new mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, says the first thing he’ll do tomorrow morning when he starts his job is meet his team and focus on statistics that show only 15% of Aucklanders have trust and only 17% are satisfied with the job Auckland Council is doing.
“So the Chief executive and I have to work together … to restore the trust and confidence of Aucklanders,” he told Q+A’s Jessica Mutch.
“Either the council is not delivering what Aucklanders want or we’re not communicating the message very well or probably a mixture of the two. We’ve got a budget in the first six or seven weeks of being sworn in as councillors, and my focus has to be on delivering greater efficiency and more effective council in that budget.”
also said he was confident he could work with central
government on issues like the transport levy, which he says
overcharges people in the city who do not use peak-hour
Q + A
Interviewed by JESSICA MUTCH
JESSICA Well, the mayor
now joins me now. Thank you very much for your time this
PHIL Thanks, Jess.
JESSICA It seems like you took one for the team when you were the Labour leader. How does it feel now being on the winning side of things?
PHIL Well, it’s always nice to win. And I want to thank Aucklanders for the confidence and the trust that they’ve shown in me. It was a strong mandate, 75,000 majority, and that mandate is important in terms of driving through the programme for Auckland, in Auckland Council itself, but also working together with central government to deliver the things that are really important to Auckland that we can only achieve if central and local government work cooperatively together.
JESSICA Do you feel like on a personal level, though, you kind of deserve this win a bit?
PHIL I don’t think you can ever say you deserve a win. You’ve got to go out to earn respect. You’ve got to go out and work hard to get a victory. And sometimes you’re swimming with the tide; sometimes you’re swimming against it. 2011, you know, we’d been in government nine years. After three years, realistically, I didn’t think it was possible, but I gave it my best shot. This time, people are being very supportive right across Auckland, across different income levels, age groups and across political lines.
JESSICA Walking into your new office Monday morning, sitting in the chair with that new role, that new responsibility, what’s the first thing that you’re going to do on Monday morning?
PHIL The first thing I’ll be doing Monday morning is meeting with my chief executive officer, and then later with the executive leadership team. And we’ll be focussed on some pretty bad statistics that the council’s own survey found that only 15% of Aucklanders had trust and only 17% were satisfied with the job Auckland Council is doing. So the chief executive and I have to work together, strongly elected and appointed people, to restore the trust and confidence of Aucklanders.
JESSICA Because that’s something Justin Lester said as well. Do you think that’s countrywide, that people don’t trust leaders at local government at the moment?
PHIL It’s disappointing that after six years of the so-called supercity that we weren’t doing better than that in Auckland. And what that indicates is either the council is not delivering what Aucklanders want or we’re not communicating the message very well or probably a mixture of the two. We’ve got a budget in the first six or seven weeks of being sworn in as councillors, and my focus has to be on delivering greater efficiency and more effective council in that budget. So holding rates at a cap of 2.5%.
JESSICA Because that’s another thing I want to talk to you about is this idea of how you’re going to handle central government. Obviously you know how it works and you have relationships with these guys already, but things like the regional fuel tax, have you talked to Simon Bridges about that already? Is that realistic? And how are you going to work through that as a case study?
PHIL Yeah. I have talked to Simon about it, and it’s a Cabinet decision, and I find Simon a very good person to work with, and I’m confident that I’ll work really professionally with the government of the day, whether it’s a National-led or a Labour-led government. But, look, the argument I’ll have to put to central government is at the moment we have an interim transport levy – it’s $114 or so – and it’s the same for a person on a minimum wage as it is for a major corporate. It’s the same for a person that uses the motorway every day—
JESSICA But is it realistic to get this through?
PHIL Look, what I’m saying to the government is, ‘This is a government that I thought always believed in user pays. At the moment we are totally inequitable at charging too much to people who are not using peak-hour transport and we have to have an element of road-user in that. And I’d be surprised if I present the case, I do my homework properly, I argue it well, I look at the finances, I’ll be surprised if the government rejects that knowing that we are headed towards gridlock in Auckland.
JESSICA I just want to talk to you about Chloe Swarbrick. She obviously isn’t someone you can elect for deputy mayor; you need to have someone sitting there. Will you look at offering her a position? She’s someone you raved about during the campaign.
PHIL Look, I welcome Chloe’s participation in the campaign. She’s young. She doesn’t like to be reminded of that constantly. But she’s enthusiastic, she’s energetic.
JESSICA Is there a position for her?
PHIL Look, I’m not about to throw around job offers. I’ve got a restricted budget. I intend to make the economies in the mayor’s office before I impose economies in the council as a whole, so I don’t have a large number of positions, but the deputy mayor, that is somebody that I choose out of existing councillors, and that will be done purely on merit.
JESSICA Have you decided on that yet?
PHIL No, look, I can’t make that decision till I’ve talked to all of the councillors I’ll be working with, but when I make that decision, it will be purely on merit.
JESSICA We’ll have to leave it there. But thank very much for your time this morning, and congratulations.
PHIL Thanks, Jess. Thank you. I appreciate that.