National MP Judith Collins gave a wide-ranging speech about the Auckland Council to an Act regional conference yesterday, which is bound to renew speculation she is considering standing for the Auckland mayoralty.
However she also appeared to make a pitch for Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett, whose name has also been associated with a mayoral run.
"Auckland desperately needs a leader, someone who can articulate their plan, implement it and be accountable for it," she said.
She applauded the fact that Mr Barnett had repeatedly called for a transparent line-by-line review of council costs and planned capital expenditure.
"He is absolutely right...taxpayers deserve to know what public money is being spent cost effectively and efficiently...
"As a ratepayer, I just hope that we end up with a financially literate, decisive mayor who can work with central government and not someone who thinks that being Mayor of Auckland is all about themselves," she said in the speech which was distributed by her press secretary.
Ms Collins' attacked the Auckland Council's Maori Statutory Board as "an unaccountable monster" and said it must go.
She said she had sought the help of the Ombudsman to get information from the board under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
"The board actually passed a resolution not to comply with the Ombudsman's recommendation."
"The Maori Statutory Board's refusal to provide basic information that should be publicly available showed a total lack of respect for the law and the ratepayers of Auckland," she said. "It needs to go."
Ms Collins said the current candidate of the right, Mark Thomas, isn't good enough to take on Labour MP Phil who is standing for the mayoralty at the local body elections in October next year.
Ms Collins questioned why the Council needed to own 100 per cent of the Ports of Auckland; she argued for greater use of PPPs for such assets as the provision of street lighting or sports facilities; and she questioned the council owning 13 golf courses when some of the land could be used for housing.
She told the conference she had been "quite hopeful" about Mr Goff until he had ruled out asset sales or reconfiguration.
Judith Collins told the Herald in November that she had no plans to stand for the Auckland mayoralty and that her focus was getting back into the cabinet.
She resigned as a minister during the election campaign last year after suggestions she may have been part of a campaign to get rid of former Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley - but an inquiry by former High Court Judge Lester Chisolm cleared her.
The incumbent mayor, Len Brown, has announced he will not be seeking -re-election next year.
Act leader and Epsom MP David Seymour told the Herald today that Ms Collins was asked to speak at the regional conference - the theme of which was local government - because she had done some thinking about local government and was "a good personality."
Mr Seymour said he had not heard rumours that she might stand as Mayor of Auckland "but I do think she would be a strong candidate."
"One of the things about the speech she gave to our conference is that it was very detailed for a relatively low-key Saturday afternoon event."
He said she was a thinker.
"There's very few politicians that could give a speech that rich in public policy detail. As I've discovered in the last year, most Members of Parliament think that public policy is background noise to the game of politics whereas she laid out a policy agenda."
"She thinks, as I personally think, that public policy is the whole purpose, ultimate output of politics."
Ms Collins could not be reached for comment.
Mr Goff said it was "a bit rich" of Ms Collins to come out against the Maori Statutory Board when she was a senior minister in the Government at the time legislation setting it was passed and the Labour Party had wanted an elected board.
"Maybe what she should have done was apologise for her own voting record in that regard and should have voted with the Opposition."
Commenting on strategic assets, Mr Goff said they produced an on-going stream of revenue for the council as well as giving it control over the strategic direction of those assets.
He said he would not want to sell Watercare because doing so would double the water rates for Aucklanders. At present, there was no dividend for the $8 billion asset but if it were privatised, investors would want a return on their money, and the cost of water would have to go up.
Mr Goff said he would welcome the entry of Mr Barnett into the mayoral contest.
"If he wants to put his name in, I think he should do it. I think he has got some credentials to run for the position and I'd welcome as many credible candidates putting their names forward as possible.
"That's what democracy is about, giving choice to the electorate, and if you have a better contest, you'll have a better turnout from the electorate."