Is it time Auckland got a second mayor?
It's okay Mayor Goff, I am not suggesting we replace you ... just yet. You deserve at least a few months with the mayoral chains before anyone suggests your removal. No, I am suggesting we get a second you. But a night you. A night mayor.
A night mayor would start work once Phil Goff is done, and oversee all that happens in Auckland after the sun goes down.
The idea is not my own (unfortunately), it's Dutch. Amsterdam started the night mayor movement. It elected its first nachtburgemeester, Mirik Milan, back in 2014, and now there are night mayors in Zurich, Toulouse, Paris, Cali and Stockholm. London just got itself one, too, except it is calling the job the night czar.
Although often overlooked, night-time economies are huge. It's estimated that London generates somewhere near $46 billion a year; New York around $17.6b with 100,000-odd people employed. Back here in NZ, according to the Restaurant Association of NZ/AUT hospitality industry report 2013, more than $2.5b was spent on hospitality in Auckland in 2012. I don't think it's clutching at straws to suggest a decent whack of that was spent after dark. In short, there is money to be made at night, and it's not a silly idea to do all we can to facilitate the night economy, just as we do the day. Except this is not how things work.
As Milan told me when I caught up with him during my show on Newstalk ZB recently, in Amsterdam, before the creation of his role, when it came to night activities causing residents issues, the immediate call was to tighten regulations or shut places down.
These outcomes satisfy the residents, but not the venue owner, the staff and those people who liked to attend the venue.
Mr Milan says his role bridges the gap among the municipality, business owners and residents. A night mayor doesn't mean parties on every corner. It means someone finding a balance so that everyone is happy.
But do we really need one?
Can't Mayor Goff just be across the day and night-time economies? Milan says no. He says City Hall more often than not has no idea what is going on in the night-time economy.
He considers himself "the eyes and ears of the mayor at night".
Detractors might say the council is too fat as it is, and we don't need another bureaucrat. Besides we can't afford another mayor. The Amsterdammers have thought of that, too. The night mayor isn't an employee of the city, but an employee of a not-for-profit NGO (non-government organisation), that is 50 per cent funded by the city, and 50 per cent funded by industry. A public-private partnership, if you will.
Milan says any city with more than 200,000 people could benefit from a night mayor: in a few years that's you Hamilton and Tauranga. He says it's hard to gauge just how much Amsterdam has benefited from having a night mayor, but he cites the positive press his position has garnered for the city. There is also the opening of a multitude of new venues across the city that perfectly balance the needs of the people running them, the people attending them, and the residents who live nearby them.
As Auckland flirts with the idea of 1am lock-out laws, with a 3am close, someone to mediate competing points of view doesn't seem like a bad idea to me. Milan says people often propose these kind of laws to create behavioural change, but no change will be obtained by closing venues or shutting them early.
He says it's like telling meat-eaters to stop eating meat. You can tell them it's bad for health or bad for the environment, but if they want to eat meat, they'll eat it. He says the same is true for people who want a life after 10pm -- "the guy or girl who likes going out, will still want to go out. They'll just do it somewhere else."