Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck is putting her hat in the ring for the Auckland mayoralty today with a goal to scrap the 11.5 cents a litre regional fuel tax within 12 months.
The 62-year-old will formally announce her bid at Cornwall Park, joining Manukau councillor Efeso Collins and restaurateur Leo Molloy in the leading pack to replace Phil Goff, who is standing down after two terms.
In an exclusive interview ahead of her announcement, Beck told the Herald if she wins the mayoralty one of her priorities will be to scrap the regional petrol tax.
"It is flawed because it penalises all people at the petrol pump and right now that is particularly problematic with inflation. It should only have been an interim tax," Beck told the Herald.
The regional fuel tax was introduced in 2018 after Goff campaigned for it in 2016 to help fund transport projects.
After more than three years, less than half of the $515m raked in by the council as of December 2021 has actually been spent, leaving the council with a $285m tax surplus.
The tax is tough on Aucklanders at present with unleaded 91 petrol passing $3 a litre and further pain predicted at the pump with the price of crude oil expected to keep rising due to the war in Ukraine.
Beck wants to see the tax replaced with a different funding arrangement between the council and Government for infrastructure, significant efficiency savings and reprioritising transport projects.
She is standing as an independent for the mayoralty with a pro-business, centre-right agenda and expected to be endorsed by National's de facto local body ticket in Auckland, Communities and Residents.
She is married to former National MP Paul Quinn, but not a member of any political party.
Beck said her campaign will focus on a positive future for Auckland, but after two years of Covid-19 things have to be done differently.
She wants better and quicker solutions for transport and congestion, climate change and housing, as well as getting tough on rising crime, providing mental health and addiction services and giving a stronger voice to local communities.
"We need a very strong public transport network for the future of the city, we need to get emissions down, but the reality is we also have to recognise at the moment a lot of people need to use a private vehicle.
"I do want to see business thrive and that is really important. Small to medium-size businesses are 90 per cent plus of our businesses and some sectors have been totally hammered. They are very important for our recovery," Beck said.
One of the biggest challenges for Beck will be shaking off her image as the face of the "central city", a dirty word in many voters' minds, and raising her profile across Auckland.
She has built a profile since 2015 as a champion for the central city not afraid to challenge local and central government on issues like the upgrade of Queen St and disruption to businesses from the City Rail Link construction works.
The severe impacts of Covid-19 on the central city have also raised her profile and honed her political skills.
Beck said she will step down from her ratepayer-funded job at Heart of the City once a recovery plan is in place for the central city, but does not know when that will be.
Other candidates standing for the mayoral race on October 8 are Craig Lord, who came a distant third in 2019 with 30,000 votes; Jake Law, whose grandfather John Law was Mayor of Rodney District Council; and lawyer Ted Johnston.
Meanwhile, former Far North Mayor and Auckland District Health Board chairman Wayne Brown said he has been approached to stand for the mayoralty.
"I'm chewing over it and have a track record of fixing things in Auckland," he said.
Who is Viv Beck
Married to former National MP and New Zealand Māori rugby player Paul Quinn.
Heart of the City chief executive since 2015.
Previously held senior communications roles at NZ Post and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, former chair of Wellington Museums Trust, deputy director Auckland Art Gallery and trustee of Mackelvie Trust.
Has a diploma in journalism and Bachelor's degree in economics.
Interests: Keeping fit, travel, art, reading.