1 You left Parliament to become mayor three years ago. How is local body politics different?
It's a totally different beast. In government, the policies you develop are supported by party discipline. In council, everyone's an individual with their own views. Some councillors will start a meeting supporting one thing and then switch positions halfway through. While a prime minister has the power to dismiss someone, a mayor has neither sanction nor reward to offer so it's a constant process of persuasion. Local boards will have a different view again; and you consult on everything. It's very time-consuming.
2 How do you get anything passed?
My supporters come from across the political spectrum. Bill Cashmore, Desley Simpson and Linda Cooper are all National Party members but we work really closely because we're all looking for constructive answers to the challenges we face. In all three budgets I've initiated, I've had support from 80 percent of the councillors. I only lost two relatively small issues.
3 Which issue were you most frustrated not to see through?
Getting the speedway shifted from Western Springs to Colin Dale Park; it's an ideal spot near the airport. We finally got agreement from the people running speedway to move but then the council voted by a narrow majority not to spend the money to develop the park.
4 What are you most proud of achieving this term?
1) Getting the government to invest another $9 billion in transport over 10 years - a 50 per cent increase on what we'd negotiated three years earlier. That's going to be spent on extending busways, light rail, a sky path and then a sea path. I've always argued that for New Zealand to succeed, Auckland has to succeed and that can't happen if it's gridlocked. You've got to have infrastructure that matches the population growth.
2) Cleaning up our beaches by separating stormwater and wastewater systems.
5 Were you born into the Labour Party?
My grandfather never really recovered from WWI. He died when my dad was 12 leaving my grandmother without a breadwinner. She couldn't meet the mortgage payments and was evicted. The following year Michael Joseph Savage was elected and she became a fervent Labour supporter. Dad inherited that. He had a tradesman's view of the world except he was a great conservationist. We always recycled and composted. I'm still retentive about that. If anybody puts vege scraps in the bin I take them out and put them in the compost, I can't help myself.
6 You left Papatoetoe High School at 16. Were you a rebel?
Dad was authoritarian; it was his way or no way. We were all lined up to get our hair cut - short back and sides. I hated that. Halfway through 7th form I got caught visiting a girlfriend down the road when I was meant to be babysitting my little sister. Dad told me to bugger off, so I did. I couch surfed with my brother, who flatted with Mike Moore.
7 How did you support yourself through university?
I had a cleaning job at night and worked at the freezing works in Otahuhu every holidays from age 15. It was hard work and I didn't see summer for seven years but I learnt a lot. One thing I was not going to do for the rest of my life was work on a production line.
8 What's your biggest regret in politics?
The cost to my family. Politics absorbs a lot of time and your family misses out. They're also unfairly targeted. My kids never enjoyed people having a go at them because of who their father is. They're in their 30s now and great kids. The boys were tearaways when they were teenagers but they settled down. The trick is to get them an apprenticeship and a mortgage, then you lock them in. They're both tradies with their own businesses and my daughter works for a training organisation. I love them to bits.
9 Have you ever felt really down and how did you come through?
It was pretty tough being Leader of the Opposition after being in Government for nine years. There's an old saying: one bad day in Government's worth 100 good days in Opposition. Once you get used to working with others to solve problems, you never really feel comfortable criticising someone else's efforts. Parliament's still very adversarial, despite MMP. I think there's a lot more room for collaboration.
10 What was the hardest moment in your career?
I always feared when I became Minister of Defense that I'd have to front up to a family and tell them their child had been killed in action. Ironically the first New Zealand citizen killed in Afghanistan was my nephew, who was serving in the US military. I actually got a handwritten letter from President Bush. I went over there for the funeral. When the casket comes off the plane at the airbase…it's pretty tough. I've never been a pacifist but I'm very proud we managed to keep New Zealand out of the Iraq war. Colin Powell told me that was his big regret.
11 Should councils provide social housing?
We don't have the capital funds to build houses but we do put money into the Auckland City Mission and James Liston Hostel. I chair Housing First, a mix of government agencies and NGOs. We've housed over a thousand people in the last two years. Most of the houses are privately owned; we guarantee the rent and provide wrap-around support to the tenants. Eighty percent of the people we house are still there a year later. Next we plan to list every homeless person by name so we can devise a specific programme to get them into housing.
12 How's your health?
I had a heart attack last year but I'm fighting fit again. It was a genetic thing that killed my brother. I had three days in hospital and a week off work. I've got four stents in my artery keeping me going and I'm feeling better than ever. The cardiologist told me, "It's important not to have a stressful job," with a grin on his face. But I get stressed when I don't have enough to do. My wife says I'm easier to live with when I've got a challenge. I blame the work ethic on my dad.
NEXT WEEK: John Tamihere
Vote Friday is on Friday 4 October
The last day to post your voting papers is Tuesday 8 October
You can drop them in a ballot box at any library or service centre before midday, Saturday 12 October.