Mutter, mutter. Psst, mutter.
As Auckland Council officials conducted a briefing ahead of the publication of the city's draft unitary plan this week, there were murmurs at the back of the room from Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.
Under her breath, she was quietly correcting, clarifying, expanding on details of the plan. "How about the coastal developments?" "Don't forget the volcanic view shafts."
Hulse is desperately proud of this 1,016-page blueprint for Auckland's development. In an angry letter to newly appointed Housing Minister Nick Smith, she tutted: "I am concerned that you do not fully understand our proposal ... "
She was entitled to be somewhat indignant, perhaps, given the Housing Minister (from Nelson) and the Environment Minister Amy Adams (from Canterbury) had just run roughshod over the city's grand plan to fix its housing crisis.
Smith had declared the council was not doing enough to loosen the stranglehold on greenfields land on the city's fringes; his protege Adams followed up with plans for a vaguely conceived government agency to seize planning control off the Auckland Council for three years.
Hulse's letter invited Smith up for a personal briefing. Given the language used , it's not an invitation Smith will hurry to accept when he visits the council next week.
Everyone agrees Auckland needs an urgent fix to its soaring house prices. Most agree the fix is a combination of high-intensity inner-city living, medium-density suburbs, and new satellite cities on the rural fringes. Yet progress is jeopardised by the ill-tempered stand-off between the Town Hall and the Beehive.
So last week, Mayor Len Brown quietly mailed his own letter to the Prime Minister - no press releases, no hoopla. Brown asked John Key to reconsider his position on putting the new unitary plan through three years of submissions, hearings and appeals. He asked that it instead be given immediate legal effect in September. "If the Government is serious about dealing with these issues sooner, as they seem to be, I hope they will agree to this request," Brown said this weekend.
Hopefully, the Mayor and the Prime Minister can call off their squabbling minions, fighting to protect their patches ahead of the local and national elections, and instead agree a way forward together. Fixing Auckland's housing is too significant a challenge to the entire economy to let it get caught up in petty politicking.