Auckland Mayor Phil Goff deserves a mark for courage in announcing he will stand for re-election on a programme involving higher rate rises over the next three years.
Some would say he could hardly do otherwise having put out a 10-year budget last year that will see the annual increase in rates rise from 2.5 per cent during this term to 3.5 per cent over the next three years. But he could have campaigned on a promise to make every effort to reduce those increases.
Ratepayers need to hear that he will look for efficiencies in the council's operations. He has had three years to get to grips with the council's internal culture and procedures and there has been no sign of an effort to find savings.
On the contrary, while the mayor has managed to keep ordinary rates within his cap, he has been energetic in securing other sources of revenue, notably the regional petrol tax and the "bed tax" imposed on the city's accommodation providers.
In this quest he has been greatly helped by the change of government a year into this term. His former parliamentary colleagues were quick to permit his council to impose a petrol tax and they have endorsed Auckland Transport's light rail proposals, as Goff did when he stood for the mayoralty.
Labour also appears to have relieved the Auckland Council of the expectation that it will have to meet half the cost of the City Rail Link, which is rapidly escalating.
Goff seems happy for central government to be taking over not just the costs but the planning, design and consenting powers of the council on transport and housing projects.
The Government's new Urban Development Authority will have power to completely over-ride the council's Unitary Plan in areas designated for affordable housing and a similar ad-hoc planning authority will be set up to control land use and road alignments for light rail if it eventuates.
All this without a squeak of protest from the mayor. It is a far cry from the more assertive Auckland voice the "Super City" was supposed to provide when it was conceived under the previous Labour Government and brought to fruition under National. Goff, a senior minister in that Labour Government, seems content for Wellington to take over most of the city's important projects.
In fact with national agencies running those and the city's services being run by arms-length agencies such as Watercare and Auckland Transport, voters at the local body elections can reasonably wonder what the mayor and his council do.
The answer is, they meet most days to hear reports and broad policy material compiled by the council staff and approve most of it because it is not contentious. They also approve long-term plans and budgets written in general terms. They do not in fact have much power to find efficiencies in the council administration because by law these are "operational" matters they must leave to the chief executive.
But the elections are the voice of citizens and the mayoral election is the only one that speaks for the whole city. Auckland needs a keen contest.