Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere has "welcomed" Phil Goff's announcement that he is seeking a second term but labelled him "a puppet for central government".
Mayor Phil Goff announced in an exclusive interview with the "Herald on Sunday" that he is seeking a second term with a promise of bigger rates increases.
Goff is placing trust at the centre of his campaigns as he squares off against former Labour MP John Tamihere, who will have councillor and former National MP Christine Fletcher as his running mate.
On Goff's announcement, Tamihere said Goff had "stumbled" on a decision to seek re-election and claimed the incumbent was a "reluctant" candidate.
"It's game on. I've been waiting for Phil to make up his mind and I'm glad he has finally come to a decision," he said.
"Auckland desperately needs strong leadership and that's why I've committed to being Mayor for three terms if I am elected."
Tamihere said there were huge problems in Auckland that Goff had "totally neglected".
"In fact, they've got worse under his lack of leadership – and it's time we got these issues out in the open and got them sorted," he said.
Tamihere identified a number of issues that had arisen under Goff's leadership.
"Auckland Transport is totally out of control with their sham consultation processes, the huge waste of money we see around the city and their obvious and deliberate policies to create rather than ease congestion.
"Why hasn't Phil pushed back against the plan to slow the entire city down by making 700 kilometres of our roads only 30km/hour? Even the Automobile Association says this will create even more congestion."
Tamihere said council spending and debt levels were also "out of control" and there had been huge cost blowouts in infrastructure projects.
"And Phil's the only mayor in New Zealand that has imposed new petrol taxes on his own people.
"What's worse, is he's trying to fool us by saying he's independent, even though Labour has endorsed his mayoral campaign," Tamihere said.
"He looks like a puppet for central government. I'm putting Auckland first. I'm independent and I won't be a puppet."
Meanwhile, Goff said he would be standing on his merits, integrity, skill, experience and trustworthiness.
"Other candidates will have to do the same," he said.
"Every candidate that puts themselves forward for election will need to face scrutiny and prove to the public they are able to be trusted to run the affairs of the city."
In gaining a second term, Goff said general rates would increase by 3.5 per cent a year — an increase on the 2.5 per cent annual rates rises in his first term.
Goff said he aimed to keep rates low in his first term against all the challenges and pressures on the cash-strapped council, but his long-term budget set rates increases of 3.5 per cent in his second term, which he would stick to.
"I think it's the responsible thing to do to keep rates at a level where some Aucklanders who are under pressure can still afford to pay for their rates but to still deliver the things that our city desperately needs.
"I guess we all want to go to heaven but none of us want to die. We want the services, but we would prefer not to pay any more rates," he said.
The Mayor said he would keep looking at new ways to raise revenue and said the 10-year budget had efficiency savings targets of $1 billion to spend on things Aucklanders wanted.