Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Phil Goff sworn in as mayor of a homeless city

Auckland City Mayor Phil Goff is sworn in to Auckland City Council as the Mayor of Auckland. Photo / Nick Reed
Auckland City Mayor Phil Goff is sworn in to Auckland City Council as the Mayor of Auckland. Photo / Nick Reed

Phil Goff was officially sworn in as Auckland Mayor last night at Auckland Town Hall and spoke in his maiden speech of the hundreds of people sleeping rough around the city. A hundred metres away from the pomp and ceremony, a group of homeless men were bedding down on the steps of Aotea Square.

One Maori man, who came to Auckland from Hawkes Bay five years ago to escape a life of crime, said "Philly" could help by building a night shelter in the city. His friend, Colin, agreed.

"This is part of my journey in life," said the Maori man, slouched over a bag containing a sleeping bag, a blanket, or both. "Just call me Dog".

The central city no longer has a night shelter, although the council recently allocated $250,000 a year for two years for the start-up costs of new emergency housing.

Goff, a long-serving Labour MP, said people living rough around the city and families sleeping in garages "is not the decent society we want our city to be".

"For me, and I'm sure for all of you here, it is about putting people first," Goff told the assembled group of about 350 local politicians, Local Government Minister Sam Lotu Iigaand business and community leaders.

The town hall was a picture of etiquette for the swearing in of Goff and 18 councillors. Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Chris Fletcher was absent. The event included a karanga, mihi and waiata from mana whenua, and Auckland Choral members behind the stage were dressed in black suits and long black gowns.

Goff wore the gold mayoral chains over a Maori feather cloak. Orakei councillor Desley Simpson wore a trademark bright pink suit, while her husband Peter Goodfellow, the National Party president, watched 10 rows back with family in tow.

Outside, Colin pulled two cigarette butts from his pocket. Dog was complaining the police had taken his trolley the day before.

A group of homeless men bedding down on the steps of Aotea Square. Photo / Bernard Orsman
A group of homeless men bedding down on the steps of Aotea Square. Photo / Bernard Orsman

Goff's vision was for no one to be left behind in Auckland, but that will take a night shelter, and more.

"Aucklanders want bold action to address the housing crisis," he extolled in the experienced, workmanlike voice that won him the mayoralty on October 9.

"Some of that we can do. But some of it, such as kick-starting affordable housing and providing sufficient social housing, must come from central Government."

Goff canvassed all the bases. Auckland, or Tamaki Makaurau, and its stunning environment; protecting, sustaining and enhancing the environment; building a fast, efficient public transport system; cutting waste and a culture change.

And his biggest challenge of all - moving away from outdated funding sources, such as rates and borrowing, and securing new revenue sources for a global city undergoing phenomenal growth.

"I am confident that there is growing recognition of this by central Government," Goff said. Lotu Iiga,sitting in the front row, looked up and gave a slight nod of the head.

- NZ Herald

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