Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Council boss Stephen Town up for challenges set by Phil Goff

Stephen Town, chief executive of Auckland Council.
Stephen Town, chief executive of Auckland Council.

Auckland Council boss Stephen Town says he shares the agenda of new Auckland Mayor Phil Goff for a turnaround in council performance.

Goff got a strong mandate at the polls 10 days ago to rebuild public trust and confidence in the council and cut waste.

In an interview with the Herald, Town said the council already shared the mayor's agenda and there was nothing to be alarmed about.

If the mayor was to say this is in and this is out that is a pretty big signal which we would respond positively to
Stephen Town

Responding to claims by Goff that satisfaction with council's performance across the board is at "rock bottom", Town said the council would love to see trust and confidence scores increase on the back of improved performance.

Town was also relaxed about a suggestion from Goff that former Air New Zealand bosses Rob Fyfe and Norm Thompson could be brought in to improve the culture at council.

As it happened, Town said, the council in conjunction with the PSA union had been working to set up a series of seminars with Air New Zealand to get the two organisations together. Thompson was familiar with the council as a board member of its tourism, Events and economic development body, he said.

Town expected a new mayor would ask the council to "push a bit harder" and it was a good thing to have a positive tension there.

Goff has already exerted his authority by questioning the need to spend $10 million to $12 million on a mooring dolphin at the end of Queens Wharf for mega cruise ships.

The project, which includes a 3.5m-wide walkway extending 75m into the harbour, has gone on hold for 20 days while officials look at other options.

Goff has accepted the need for the dolphin, but is not convinced about the scale of the project, which is meant to be a temporary solution and will only get used a handful of times during the cruise ship season.

Town said he wanted to have more in-depth discussions with the new mayor about his proposal to save an extra 3 per cent to 6 per cent over and above existing savings targets.

Town has told Goff he would like to see a number when the mayor presents his first draft budget next month or early December.

Goff has targeted the council's procurement of services to save money, with Town saying there was "great opportunity there".

Town said the council was even looking at making savings through shared services with government departments in the longer term.

When it comes to Goff's election promise not to sell strategic assets like the council's shares in Auckland Airport, Town said officers had not had that discussion yet with the mayor.

"In the end the mayor gets to set the budget, pick the key leadership roles, the committees and the deputy mayor and set the broad policy programme ... if the mayor was to say this is in and this is out that is a pretty big signal which we would respond positively to," Town said.

- NZ Herald

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