I am regularly asked why I have thrown my support behind John Tamihere's mayoral bid when the easy option would be to snipe from the sidelines with all the other unhappy councillors.
I just couldn't accept the do-nothing option, knowing that three more years with the incumbent Phil Goff at the helm would see Auckland fall further behind in progressing key projects this city needs. This week we have now seen another frustrated Aucklander in John Banks toy with the idea of taking on Goff. But right now we desperately need a unity of ideas across the spectrums.
The NZ Herald recently described Auckland as being at an "infrastructure crisis point". How has this been allowed to happen? The $28 Billion Auckland Transport Alignment Project ATAP, put together under Len Brown and agreed in 2016, was supposed to address this deficit but here we are in 2019 and how many of the actual projects have even commenced? I asked Auckland Transport last week and they could not tell me.
The cold hard fact is we cannot have another three years of the status quo; endless counts of mismanagement and poor judgement on parks and stadia issues, the ill-conceived targeted accommodation rate now before the courts; the mess that freedom camping has become; and no intelligent oversight of major projects such as the City Rail Link.
Aucklanders deserve an electoral campaign that will open the books, bringing transparency and accountability to the CCOs, tackle waste and incompetence, return democracy to neighbourhoods and most importantly renegotiate Auckland's deal with central government.
The view from inside a Goff-led council is that of dysfunctionality and in-fighting. If you are not part of his team you are shown no respect. His leadership is divisive, and he is seen by many as merely an extension of the bureaucracy. What Goff really struggles with is the value of creating and leading teams, of getting people on side and taking the city with him. One consequence of this ironically is that both the left of the right in council are equally frustrated and have sometimes worked together to overturn stupid projects.
When approached by Tamihere to support his Auckland mayoral bid, I was willing to listen. Some of my perceptions of him until then had not been positive. However, as we sat down and discussed his beliefs, his background and his vision for Auckland I was impressed. I asked the hard questions, especially about things he had said in the past. He answered every question. I would not have agreed to support his campaign unless I genuinely believed him to be thoughtful and totally committed to Auckland.
From his time as a lawyer, to serving New Zealanders in Parliament and now as CEO of Waipareira Trust he has learnt how to build and run major organisations. Waipareira Trust is serving the needs of people in West Auckland far better than the council is serving Auckland. He is not afraid of his own shadow and will also stand up to the faceless bureaucrats who currently think they are running this city.
Tamihere has already articulated plans for the port that will retain ownership of the land, while capitalising on the value of the company to ease the rate burden. A balanced transport policy is being finalised that will get Auckland moving again. In due course he will be announcing a rates policy that will be in stark contrast to that announced by Goff. And his policies on governance will see the council taking back control of the bureaucracy.
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Tamihere knows that the current funding model for financing local government is broken and isn't allowing sufficient investment to meet demand from population growth or replace aging assets. He knows leadership is required to become smarter about using the existing asset base of council to fund new investment by either leasing or allowing a minority portion of the asset base to be sold, at the same time ensuring strategic assets continue to remain in public ownership. While I am not yet persuaded Watercare is the right utility to consider for this, I applaud his courage and his willingness to open the debate.
After three years of failure and frustration, I know that with Tamihere's leadership we can get this beautiful city moving again.
* Christine Fletcher is a former Minister of Local Government, mayor of Auckland City and now councillor