Local Government Minister Paula Bennett wants central government to have a stronger presence in Auckland to make sure the Super City meets its growth challenges.
"I think there is a real merit to central government having a bigger presence in Auckland," says Bennett.
"We have a role to play in making sure that more senior people are based in Auckland more often."
She says the model is already in place with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) which is Auckland-focused in some respects. It has senior people on the ground, and is able to make decisions there. "Central and local government working together is in the best interest of the residents in Auckland. I'm not one who's going to go out and take sideswipes and that sort of thing, but that doesn't mean I won't be challenging."
Bennett's comments come in the wake of a report by former Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay on how central government can improve its ties with Auckland. The McKay report recommended that "stewardship responsibilities for Auckland should sit at the executive table and at the heart of central government decision-making".
Says Bennett: "Cabinet has discussed the possibility of holding meetings in Auckland many times and I know that the Prime Minister does have an interest in that happening. Realistically, it's about the logistics of it - so I certainly wouldn't rule it out but ultimately that's a conversation for the Prime Minister to have."
Since resuming the local government portfolio after the election, Bennett has been "digging in deep" and is "heartened" by progress.
"I think Auckland is in really good shape. I see the developments that are going on and the way they've gone through the Unitary Plan process has been impressive.
"I think that Auckland Council have recognised some of the things they could and should do better and that's positive."
But having another million people in Auckland by 2040 poses challenges in key areas like jobs, housing, transport and infrastructure.
Bennett points to central government's billion-dollar investment in transport initiatives in Auckland. "That is about taking responsibility for the major routes ... you can see it with Waterview, the work continuing on the Panmure Highway."
"We have, in principle, signed on with the Mayor's City Rail Link too, with further questions to be asked. We see ourselves having a commitment there, what we're working through is around the timing of it and then making sure that there is the population to sustain it and sufficient people working in the city."