Auckland council bureaucrats have spent half a million dollars developing a new city brand, which has been condemned as "outrageous" by some councillors and does not have the support of new mayor Phil Goff.
The city's proposed new global brand - The Place Desired by Many - was worked on by three project staff over two years, while 115 council staff attended workshops. The decision to use it had not been finalised, but had emerged as a strong theme.
Council-controlled organisation Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) says the catchphrase was part of an "Auckland story" that could be marketed to a global audience.
Last night, Auckland councillor Dick Quax blasted the move as "outrageous raping of the ratepayer" and councillor Chris Fletcher said it was "a complete waste of money".
It is the latest in a long list of brands and images for Auckland including the City of Sails, The Big Little City, The Show that Never Stops, the lava-coloured, frayed letter A and a stylised pohutukawa flower for the new Super City.
The new brand is the work of the council's promotion arm, Ateed. Its full title is Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland, The Place Desired by Many. Folklore has it that the people of Ngati Whatua o Orakei know Tamaki Makaurau as "Tamaki the place desired by many".
Mayor Phil Goff has received an initial high-level briefing on aspects of Ateed's Global Auckland rebranding project.
A spokeswoman said the rebranding or marketing of Auckland was not a project the mayor was interested in championing.
She said Goff was made aware of the catchphrase, The Place Desired by Many, but he could not be reached to comment on the cost of the project.
Goff has promised a crackdown on council waste, greater scrutiny of council-controlled organisations (CCOs) such as Ateed and phasing out former mayor Len Brown's slogan The World's Most Liveable City.
Quax said he was dumbfounded: "We have got huge costs coming down the line. People in South Auckland and West Auckland can't afford to buy a house or pay rent. Teachers can't afford to live in Auckland.
"You can understand why people like Donald Trump succeed when they see this sort of nonsense going on by the political elites of Auckland."
Councillor Desley Simpson, deputy chair of the finance committee, said the project was another example of where the council has to tighten the decision-making of CCOs, "when you can see a mile off it is not a priority for ratepayers".
The $500,000 cost was nearly equivalent to two new sports fields, she said.
Said councillor Fletcher: "It is arrogance in the extreme. It is disrespectful to the ratepayer and a complete waste of money."
In a statement, Ateed boss Brett O'Riley confirmed that the literal meaning of Tamaki Makaurau, "the place desired by many", had come through as a strong theme from the Global Auckland project but no final decision had been made on the proposition.
Decisions about how the research and narrative will be used will be made in consultation with the council and private sector, O'Riley said.
No date has been set to reveal the brand.
Ateed said it had been instructed by the Council to develop the Auckland story through various statements of intent dating back to 2014.
Documents leaked to the Herald show work on the brand project has included focus groups, interviews, surveys and social media. Advertising agency Colenso BBDO and brand gurus DNA were used. A total of 115 council and Ateed staff attended workshops.
The Global Auckland project was overseen by an advisory group, which was headed by Jane Hastings, former chief executive of Herald owner NZME and included Ngarimu Blair from Ngati Whatua; Heather Shotter, Committee for Auckland; Dr Sudhvir Singh, Generation Zero; Michael Barnett, Chamber of Commerce; and Viv Beck, Heart of the City.
One Ateed document called The Global Auckland Story and marked commercially sensitive says Los Angeles is The City of Angels, Paris The City of Love and New York The City that Never Sleeps.
"It is up to Auckland to define, deliver and promote who we are and who we want to be," said the document.
In a letter to Ateed in April this year, Penny Hulse, the then-deputy mayor and chair of the CCO governance and monitoring committee, emphasised Global Auckland should include reference to "Maori identity as Auckland's point of difference in the world".
Ateed accounts show $517,000 had been spent on Global Auckland to the end of June this year.
Experts expressed mixed responses to the brand.
AUT tourism professor Simon Milne said there was clearly value in this kind of exercise, but there were a lot of challenges in getting it right.
"What does it mean for people who live here as well as visitors? Is it something that is going to resonate? Does it have the impact that an Absolutely Positively Wellington does? That's an example of a brand that engaged both local people and visitors," Milne said.
Market adviser Graham McGregor said it was a bit bland. It said lots of people want to live and work in Auckland, but it was hardly memorable.