Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has responded to councillors who have attacked his leadership style by calling on everyone to get behind a positive working environment.
Goff has been rocked today by nine of the 19 councillors accusing him of operating a "non-inclusive style of leadership" and "expressing strong dissatisfaction " over his handling of a $1 million report into a central city stadium.
The criticism ramped up when councillors Sharon Stewart and Chris Fletcher accused the mayor over overseeing a culture of bullying.
My door is open to councillors at any time
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Stewart said she had been bullied during discussions on a regional fuel tax and Fletcher said in a letter to Goff that "bullying in any form is unacceptable to me".
A mayoral spokesman said "bullying is unacceptable and the Mayor takes any allegation of this sort of behaviour seriously. He has invited Councillor Fletcher to discuss her concerns with him directly today".
In a formal response to the letter from the nine councillors issued late today, Goff said he was "committed to working collaboratively with all of you".
"A positive and constructive working environment requires a common commitment to achieving this. I am committed to this but it is a two-way street," Goff said in the letter.
The mayor said he does not chair meetings autocratically, but said he was required to exercise leadership and make recommendations which councillors will not always agree with.
"That is the nature of the job and I don't retreat from that responsibility," said Goff, saying political decisions do create division and controversy at times.
Goff made the point he requires the support of a majority of councillors to pass every measure.
"My door is open to councillors at any time. I have worked with many of you on issues that you have raised with me."
Goff's letter outlined the background and history to the stadium issue and reiterated that he had made copies of the PwC feasibility and funding reports "immediately available to councillors to read".
Council staff had advised him that the Ombudsman regarded the approach he had taken as reasonable, he said.
Councillor Chris Darby, a member of Goff's inner circle and planning committee chairman, said the mayor had made a deliberate effort to embrace councillors, welcome them to leadership roles and share the workload around, but often these invitations had been rebuffed.
"It always takes two to tango. If this is about relationships we all need to take responsibility and recognise it's two or more people in the tango.
"Aucklanders want to hear about the future, not navel gazing," Darby said.
The councillors behind the letter cite Goff's handling of the recent controversy over a proposed new downtown stadium for Auckland and his refusal to give councillors full and open access to a report by PwC costing about $935,000 as the reasons for the move.
It was a significant report that was supposed to cost up to $600,000, but that only came to light thanks to a successful Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) request from the media, the letter says.
Councillors John Watson, Wayne Walker, Greg Sayers, Mike Lee, Cathy Casey, Efeso Collins, Chris Fletcher, Daniel Newman and Sharon Stewart signed the letter.
Over the course of a year Goff had made no attempt to inform councillors on the contents of the report, the letter read.
The councillors said if this was an isolated incident we might have been tempted to raise the appropriate objections and mark it down to experience.
"Unfortunately, however, this is a reflective of a leadership style that has become increasingly apparent as the term has progressed," the letter said.
The councillors pointed to a "rather distrustful political working environment within council" going back to a December meeting where Goff attempted to remove Albany councillor Wayne Walker as deputy chairman of the regulatory committee, to be replaced by deputy mayor Bill Cashmore.
At the meeting Goff faced a barrage of criticism over his leadership style and the hurt he inflicted on Walker, whose only warning was a phone message.
The councillors said in the letter they hoped the December incident might have provided an opportunity to start afresh and ensure a more positive and constructive working relationship.
"This hasn't happened ... the result is a rather distrustful political working environment within council.
"Quite simply the question of trust and transparency within the Auckland Council is getting worse, not better, as far as we are concerned.
"We, the undersigned, therefore wish to formally register our strong dissatisfaction at the way in which this matter and others are being handled by you as mayor and in particular the non-inclusive style of leadership it is revealing," the letter said.