Super City reporter Bernard Orsman talks vision, values, rates and life outside politics with new mayor Len Brown
What is your vision for Auckland over the next three years and beyond?
There are two key visions that we need to deliver on. The first one is to really work on the structure of Auckland and ensure there is a seamless change - the new mayor's office; get the new local boards up; a working relationship with the council-controlled organisations. Secondly, the need to really get into our communities and settle them, get them with the local boards and ensure all the work we have planned for the local communities through our long-term plans continues on apace. Beyond that, infrastructure, particularly on transport, and really laying the groundwork for the next wave of the economic cycle. It is a time of immense growth and pace in Auckland.
What are your top five priorities?
One, settle the council. Two, establish a proper working relationship with the CCOs and the council officers. Three, ensure the local boards start and work straight away on agendas. Four, get significant process and progress around transportation and particularly on public transport. Five, set up a system of protocols to ensure our communities feel incorporated within this change.
How will you set about your plans for a CBD rail loop, a rail to the airport and rail to the North Shore?
The inner-city loop is well forward in its planning, designations are pretty much in place. We might be able to get construction in place in the next three years. We are at the front end of designations to the airport. There has been a lot of planning on the second crossing of the harbour and much of it is directed at agreeing it is a tunnel. I want a little more work on that over the next year to make sure the community is totally focused on that. I'm required by statute to deliver a vision for Auckland. This is it. This is my vision. In Auckland this is the way we are going.
How are you going to create a single rates system in 2012?
With caution and deliberation. I'm well experienced in the vagaries and intricacies of a rating system and some of the finer arguments around equity and there will be good debate. We are going to carry out a full and frank discussion with our community about those challenges, but it will be fair. We will find an even point with the uniform annual general charge, differentials and I think [basing rates] on capital value is probably the best of all the options. There are some key outstanding issues relating to leaky homes and transition costs.
What do you mean by the values of the Auckland Council?
One of the real attractions for being the first mayor is to establish the core values of this council and its culture. The first is inclusiveness, that we are a council that represents an extraordinary diversity of people.
The second is the value of fairness - this council is prepared to listen and be fair.
The third one is prudence, the council is not about rating us out and is prepared to be accountable and transparent.
Fourthly, we are going to be expeditious. We are not going to muck around. We are not going to debate forever. We will make decisions and move. People will get a sense of what Auckland stands for, its heart and soul.
How much power and say will the local boards have under your leadership?
The Auckland Transition Agency and the Government have really passed this between themselves and I don't think they completed the debate. I'm going to finish that debate with reasonable haste because I don't want to have long arguments with the boards about issues of delegation. We want to clarify the final delegations of the boards and make sure that is in place by November 1.
Out of 10, how do you rate the reforms for Auckland?
Six. There is a lot left unsaid. My concern for transport remains. I have been fair and responsible by saying we will look at it after two years in terms of the transport CCO. They didn't finish the work on the local boards. About five for the democratic side of things. The jury is out. We won't know until we set it up and work away at it. The community is going to tell us how they think we are going. If we can get beyond that, maybe in another five or 10 years, they will be saying the change was absolutely worth it. I hope they do. I hope I do.
Who do you have in mind for the deputy mayoralty?
I'm not saying. I can guarantee it will be someone from outside Manukau. I want to have a good deputy. I'm mostly looking for loyalty and experience and competence and an ability to assist me in the management of the political process and the interface with the community.
What are your plans for Maori seats?
An appropriate discussion on how we deal with that issue and incorporate as many people as possible in that discussion, either by way of consultation or a referendum. I am partial to the referendum idea. We could have it during the course [of this term] as part of the review of democratic representation. I don't want to presume a position, but take the advice of the community, the council and Maori on this issue.
Do you really see a role for John Banks?
John has got to take time to think things through. I don't know what he wants to do. We will see over the next few weeks and months, and he and I will have discussions.
Should Mark Ford lead the Auckland Transport CCO and the water CCO?
Mark has overall done a very, very good job in this transition. In terms of where he is at with his roles, he and I will be having a discussion about that and I don't want to discuss that in a public forum. He has legitimately been asked to do two roles and clearly the Government have confidence in him, but now I have to determine for my own self and our council the roles of the CCOs and its chairs. I acknowledge there is concern in the wider community and I will deal with that concern.
Any plans for a summer holiday?
We are going to have to take a break ... a week or two somewhere over Christmas. I'm trying to work out how many Christmas parades I will be going to and how many Christmas carols I'm going to be singing.
What is your favourite spot outside Auckland?
Queenstown. We went for a brief break for a couple of days. We flew in on a perfect day and you drop down between the mountains and the Remarkables.