Auckland Mayor Phil Goff today launched his bid for a second term, pledging to continue "building Auckland's Future" but providing no new policies and little in the way of detail behind the slogan.
"There are hard decisions that must be made over the next three years. None of it is easy. The challenges are immense," Goff told Labour MPs, councillors and other supporters at the Mt Albert Memorial Hall.
In an exclusive interview with the "Herald" before the launch, Goff said general rates would increase by 3.5 per cent a year in his second term - an increase on the 2.5 per annual cent rate rises in his first term.
The Mayor said he aimed to keep rates low in his first term against all the challenges and pressures on the cash-strapped council, but his long-term budget set rates increases of 3.5 per cent in his second term, which he would stick to.
Goff is placing trust at the centre of his campaign as he squares off against former Labour MP John Tamihere with former National MP Chris Fletcher as his running mate.
"This year's mayoral election is about who Aucklanders trust with the job of building the future of their city, and whose values and vision best matches up with their own," Goff said.
He said he would be standing on his merits, integrity, skill, experience and trustworthiness.
Tamihere has "welcomed" Phil Goff's announcement that he is seeking a second term but labelled him "a puppet for central government". Goff is standing as an independent with the endorsement of the Labour Party.
Goff reeled off a number of achievements under his first term, including house construction at record levels, huge investment in water quality, virtually wiping out predators in the Hunua Ranges, a living wage for council staff and housing 700 homeless people and families.
"Three years ago I ran for mayor because I wanted to play my part in shaping the future direction of our region - having started that job, I now want to see it through," he said.
Goff said traffic congestion - which has got worse under his leadership - remains one of Auckland's biggest challenges.
After years of underinvestment in infrastructure, Goff said he had worked with Transport Minister Phil Twyford and councillors to put together a 10-year budget with record investment of $28 billion towards more roads, busways, road safety, walking and cycling.
Goff, facing fiscal constraints, a possible blowout of more than $1b on the $3.4b city rail link and calls for more than $200m on city stadiums, said detailed policy would be released during the campaign.
He listed transport, housing, the environment, supporting local communities and delivering value for money as his focus for a second term.
"We've made good progress but there is still much to do. Having started the job, I want to see it through," he said.
Goff, who was in Parliament for 32 years as a Labour MP, convincingly won the mayoralty in 2016 with a 76,000 vote majority over Victoria Crone. His campaign cost $410,000.
On Goff's announcement, Tamihere said Goff had "stumbled" on a decision to seek re-election and claimed the incumbent was a "reluctant" candidate.
"It's game on. I've been waiting for Phil to make up his mind and I'm glad he has finally come to a decision," he said.
"Auckland desperately needs strong leadership and that's why I've committed to being Mayor for three terms if I am elected."
Tamihere said there were huge problems in Auckland that Goff had "totally neglected".
"In fact, they've got worse under his lack of leadership – and it's time we got these issues out in the open and got them sorted," he said.
Tamihere identified a number of issues that had arisen under Goff's leadership.
"Auckland Transport is totally out of control with their sham consultation processes, the huge waste of money we see around the city and their obvious and deliberate policies to create rather than ease congestion.
"Why hasn't Phil pushed back against the plan to slow the entire city down by making 700 kilometres of our roads only 30km/hour? Even the Automobile Association says this will create even more congestion."
Tamihere said council spending and debt levels were also "out of control" and there had been huge cost blowouts in infrastructure projects.
"And Phil's the only mayor in New Zealand that has imposed new petrol taxes on his own people.
"What's worse, is he's trying to fool us by saying he's independent, even though Labour has endorsed his mayoral campaign," Tamihere said.
"He looks like a puppet for central government. I'm putting Auckland first. I'm independent and I won't be a puppet."