Love them, lead them, keep them busy and, through it all, keep smiling.

Sitting and former mayors have shared advice for Auckland mayor Phil Goff, under fire after nearly half his councillors signed a letter of no confidence in the first-term mayor.

They weren't happy with the longtime former Labour MP's handling of a $1 million report into a central city stadium and his "non-inclusive style of leadership".

Most of the mayors and former mayors spoken to had also experienced division within their councils.

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Sir Bob Harvey, who served six terms as mayor of the legacy Waitākere City Council, urged Goff to "love [his councillors] to death".

"I had a number of councillors that have stood against me ... and all finished up total supporters and fans. [I did it] by sheer leadership and understanding their issues and being determined and being close. Being close is so important.

"Being a mayor is an incredibly difficult job ... it needs superhuman love and pure leadership."

Sir Bob Harvey got using to
Sir Bob Harvey got using to "changing nappies" and "swallowing dead rats" during his long stint leading Waitākere City Council. Photo / File

Exercising both was a delicate balancing act, Sir Bob said.

"If you're too kind they'll see a weakness. If you're too strong, they'll call you a bully ... you have to change a lot of nappies and swallow a lot of dead rats."

Former Christchurch mayor Vicki Buck advocated showing love by sharing the load.

"It's probably the most awesome job you can have, but the thing is there's just so much to do. It's really important to share it around and invite everybody, so everybody is involved and really busy."

Some former mayors criticised Goff's decision making.

Georgina Beyer, elected Carterton mayor in 1995, challenged Goff over the stadium report.

"If Phil has done anything in this regard to prevent free access of his councillors to documents regarding stadiums, and you can throw all the commercial watcha-ever-you-likes at me. I don't give a damn. It's democracy at the table and it must be preserved."

Former Carterton mayor Georgina Beyer says Auckland councillors should be able to see all documents relating to a potential central city stadium. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
Former Carterton mayor Georgina Beyer says Auckland councillors should be able to see all documents relating to a potential central city stadium. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

Two-time legacy Auckland City mayor John Banks said Goff "portrays himself as an inclusive trader ... he is anything but", and it was too late to change the 65-year-old.

"His mayoralty will end with nothing much for history."

If the mayor was listening, he should learn to be more inclusive, Banks said, referring to his own relationship with left-leaning Auckland councillor Cathy Casey, among those to sign the letter of no confidence.

"I had a very good working relationship with Cathy Casey. You've just got to actually start taking these people with you."

Sitting mayors Tim Shadbolt, of Invercargill and Tony Kokshoorn, of Grey District, both encouraged Goff not to be put off.

"Wait for the storm to pass ... in politics it always passes. There'll be other crises that are more demanding," Shadbolt said.

Kokshoorn said the public valued team work and progress.

"If you all agree to disagree and stay as a team, that's all the public want to see."

Former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker said the Auckland mayoralty was one of the
Former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker said the Auckland mayoralty was one of the "most important leadership roles in New Zealand's history". Photo / File

Sir Bob Parker, who led Christchurch through the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, encouraged Goff to "stick by his views".

"He's in one of the most important leadership roles in New Zealand's history, a unique role in an extraordinary city and that takes a lot of courage ... he should stick by his views. He's there to be a leader and he'll be judged on that."

Far North mayor John Carter might've sat across the political benches from Goff during their many years in Parliament together, but he was generous in his words for his old political foe.

"Keep smiling," the former National MP said.

"These things have a way of working their way out. He's a good guy, Phil, and it will work its way through."