Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Q & A with Len Brown

The first mayor for the whole Auckland region has shrugged off a sometimes difficult start and already looks odds-on to win a second term in office in this year's election. But how well has Len Brown done against the goals he set himself and the challenges he has encountered? Super City reporter Bernard Orsman rates the affable 56-year-old's performance in both areas and asks him what he hopes to achieve next

Len Brown. Photo / NZ Herald
Len Brown. Photo / NZ Herald

What are your main goals for a second term if you win in October?

A very firm and continuous focus on transport. Clear decisions about the city rail loop and the delivery of that. Roll out of busways, ferry terminals, school transport plans, our roading network. Ensuring the delivery of the unitary plan. Thirdly, prudent financial management of council budgets. Fourthly, ensuring the active engagement of our people in the process of continuing to develop the Super City and the world's most liveable city. Fifthly, jobs. Economic development and focus around things like tourism, and creating jobs around that.

What is your biggest concern for Auckland over the next three years?

The need for us to ensure real cohesion with central government. Successful nations and cities achieve best when they plan together and work together very closely, analyse, research and achieve outcomes. I don't think we are in that right frame in New Zealand to take up the opportunities of a united Auckland.

At Governmental level, we are stuck back at 50, 60, 70 years ago.

Are you hoping for a Labour-Green government in 2014 to increase the chances for the city rail loop?

I'm elected to be the mayor for Auckland, not to over-indulge in what is going around in Wellington. I have made a commitment to the people of Auckland to ensure the best working relationship with whoever the Government is.

Can Aucklanders look forward to improved bus services?

I'm working with bus providers to get a mini bus pilot operating. We are planning to increase busways to Silverdale and Orewa, through in the east and a potential busway on the northwestern motorway. Reliability of bus services is something we are still working on. I'm putting pressure on Auckland Transport and the bus providers. When it says it will turn up on the minute, I want it on the minute.

Do you think Aucklanders are ready for high-rise and small-size apartments in their town centres and suburbs?

Yes they are, because it is there already. In many of the small town centres you have three-to-four storey blocks of apartments, commercial blocks. Half of Aucklanders are under 40 years of age and they have all travelled. They know what an international city is like. We are just delivering the sort of urban and cityscape most young Aucklanders appreciate.

What new events would you like to bring to Auckland?

I would like to see more cultural shows. Mary Poppins was a blast. I would like to see some of the big stage shows, like Les Miserables, come here for 12 to 18 months. Getting the V8s back, for me, was important. That was a reflector of Auckland losing its mojo and inability to deliver projects and events. We lost the Ellerslie Flower Show, for goodness sake, for want of our ability to be cohesive and work together.

Overall, rates increases have come down in each of your three years. Can you promise even lower rates in the next three years?

The only thing I will commit to is rates in and around the rate of inflation. We will be very prudent and wise stewards of the council purse.

Will debt increase in your second term and, if so, by how much?

There will be an increase in debt levels, but I will be working to have that at a much slower rate than is indicated in our 10-year budget.

Do you have any new cost savings on the horizon?

Doug McKay, our chief executive, is firmly of the view there are further benefits from the rationalising of eight councils into one. We have probably got as much as we can from rationalising contracts. The savings will still be around the very best work of how we deliver services to ratepayers and how we manage the rollout of our capital programme.

Will you trust the public to have a say on the demolition of heritage buildings?

My whole leadership has been based on trust. But there is a balance for the owners of a property to reasonably trust the decision-making framework and the integrity of the process. A person's home is their castle and they have reasonable rights and expectations of what they think is appropriate within the rules. It's a balance against the wider desire by Aucklanders to seek to preserve our built heritage better than previously.

- NZ Herald

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