Labour MP Phil Goff has announced he is standing as an independent candidate for the Auckland mayoralty, ending months of speculation about his political future.
Speaking to about 200 supporters at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron this afternoon, Mr Goff said he was standing for mayor "because I believe that together we can create a better Auckland - a city where talent and enterprise can thrive. That's the kind of city I want to lead.
"For Auckland to succeed, it must operate effectively and efficiently. The Super City was supposed to eliminate waste and bureaucratic duplication. That will be my priority. Under my leadership, we will be fiscally prudent and learn to do more with less."
If successful, Mr Goff said he would focus on a number of issues that directly impacted on the lives of Aucklanders, including tackling traffic congestion and increasing the housing supply.
"People deserve to enjoy the fantastic lifestyle offered by Auckland with its stunning natural environment, friendly communities, diverse cultures, and strong learning and working opportunities. Instead, they're watching their dream of home ownership drift further from their reach and spending hours trapped in their cars on motorways.
"These are complex problems and there are no simple solutions. But we can make a difference. Bringing forward infrastructure funding and providing more bus, cycle and walkways would help ease the gridlock. Policies that give the building industry the confidence to gear up for construction will also make it easier for home buyers."
Labour leader Andrew Little said his MP would bring a huge amount of experience to the mayoralty campaign.
He said some National Party identities had told him this year that they thought Mr Goff was the right man for the job.
"He has an appeal across the political spectrum."
Mr Little did not know what opponents might emerge, but expressed confidence that Mr Goff could take on all-comers.
"Phil is a scrapper from way back, so he is up for a scrap if someone wants to take him on. But he's got a huge amount of experience that he will throw into it."
The Labour leader is currently working through a reshuffle of his MPs' rankings and responsibilities, and said Mr Goff would lose Auckland Issues.
He had talked with Mr Goff about what could work given the mayoralty run, and the MP's other portfolios, including defence and veterans' affairs, would be looked at.
"He is still an MP, will continue to be an MP, and I need him to be picking up portfolios that he is skilled in. So we will see what that looks like when we make that announcement."
Mr Goff entered Parliament as the MP for Roskill in 1981 and apart from a three-year gap between 1990 and 1993 he has represented the the Roskill and New Lynn electorates.
He was the youngest cabinet minister in the 1984 Labour cabinet and Leader of the Opposition between 2008 and 2011.
He is aged 62 and lives on a 8ha small farm at Ardmore with his wife Mary. They have three adult children.
Mr Goff said he is committed to working in an inclusive way with future fellow councillors and the Government, whatever its political makeup.
"This city needs a mayor with experience and political expertise. As an MP and Cabinet Minister, I have 30 years' experience in bringing teams of diverse people together and leading large organisations dealing with complex issues on tight budgets," Mr Goff said.
"I will bring new leadership, energy, integrity and commitment to the role. As mayor, I'll serve the interests of Auckland and its people."
Mr Goff said that if elected Mayor next October, he would immediately resign as an MP.
"I was elected MP for Mt Roskill for three years and I would resign that role and force a by-election with reluctance. I intend taking a leave of absence from Parliament once I embark on intensive campaigning next year. Until then, just as I balanced being a Cabinet Minister and MP for many years, I will continue serving my constituents full-time as their MP as I have done for more than 30 years."
Prime Minister John Key said Mr Goff's chances "would have to be pretty reasonable", depending on what other candidates came forward.
He said he could work comfortably with Mr Goff if he was successful, as he would with any other mayor.
"If you are running a campaign in the Auckland mayoralty, there are a large number of voters, it costs a lot of money ... and he has widespread name recognition. We haven't seen a big name emerge from the centre-right yet, but it is early days."
Mr Key did not believe the big commitment needed for the upcoming campaign meant Mr Goff should resign as an MP.
"The history is not of people resigning ... he won't be in the House as much, I don't know what his schedule will be, but in terms of his constituency, which is Mt Roskill, that is sort of the heart of Auckland, I think he will argue pretty strongly he will continue to serve his constituents."
Even if Mr Goff was successful, Mr Key said there was precedent for him to remain in Parliament until the next election, as long as he didn't take both salaries.
Such a move could avoid the expense of a byelection, Mr Key said.
Asked if Mt Roskill was unwinnable from National's perspective, he said no incumbent Government had ever won a byelection for a seat it did not hold.
"I don't think we would be claiming we were the frontrunners. But, in the end, if there is a byelection, we are happy to fight it...I'm just simply saying we are not trying to railroad him out of the place."
Phil Goff's speech - 'For a better Auckland'
Thank you all for coming today.
Today I am announcing my candidacy for the Auckland Mayoralty.
I'm standing for Mayor because I believe that together we can create a better Auckland. A city where talent and enterprise can thrive - whether you're a hip-hop artist, a scientist, a tradie or a businessperson. A city where we care about each other, our environment and our way of life. That's the city I want to lead.
I owe a lot to Auckland. I was born in Mt Eden and was raised in Three Kings and Papatoetoe. I studied at Auckland University and taught there and at AUT. I helped pay my way through school and university by working in Otahuhu at Westfield Freezing Works. That was another level of education.
For three decades I have enjoyed the privilege of representing Aucklanders from Mt Roskill and New Lynn in Parliament. I thank them for their support.
Mary and I have raised our three children in this city. Today, all three of them live and work here. Mary and I, and a dog named Belle, live on a small farm in Ardmore. We love Auckland and appreciate all the good things about the city. For us, it's enjoying the countryside, fishing and relaxing at Orere Point, or catching a concert in the city.
Over the years, I have seen Auckland grow and change. It has become more diverse and dynamic. As the city has grown so too have the opportunities and choice for learning, work and recreation. We are an internationally competitive city and the best chance New Zealand has to attract and keep talented people in this country.
A million Kiwis live overseas on a long-term basis. On average, about 50,000 of our best and brightest people leave every year. Auckland is the place that can attract those Kiwis back here to live and raise their families.
The late scientist and entrepreneur Sir Paul Callaghan talked of making New Zealand a place where talent wanted to live. He got it absolutely right.
My vision is of Auckland unleashing itself as a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial city. It should be a centre of learning and a centre of culture. A city rich in diversity and proud of its Maori, Pasifika, European, Asian and other heritage. A place that attracts and nurtures talent and enterprise. As we grow, we must be a city where trade and investment can thrive. Where business is easy to do.
This is a city that should be producing more high-tech, high-paid jobs. New Zealand is 6th in the world in publishing high-tech research reports. But it's only 63rd in high-tech manufacturing output. We need measures to promote R&D investment and venture capital to translate good ideas into successful and job creating export enterprises.
We want more places like the Media Design School which is the number one ranked 3D animation, visual effects and game development school in the Asia Pacific Region. Or Auckland University's Power Electronics Group which has produced world leading technology for charging electric cars by induction.
There's a lot to attract good people and good enterprises to Auckland. We have a beautiful natural environment, framed by our spectacular coastline, harbours, our maunga, islands and regional parks. Those are assets that must be respected and protected for generations to come.
We need to make Auckland a place where our urban environment and lifestyle matches the quality of our natural environment. Good urban design and protecting our green open spaces is vital as the city intensifies.
We must be an inclusive city. Where diversity brings richness not division. A place where people don't have to live in gated communities with poverty and homelessness on their doorstep. Where people can earn an income they can actually live on. A place where every Aucklander can reach their full potential.
To realise this vision, we must confront the challenges head-on. While we have made progress, we have also missed valuable opportunities. Mayor Robbie was right all those years ago. We needed to anticipate the future and plan for it. Instead, too often, we have responded after the event and continue to do so.
Our infrastructure has not kept up with growth. Our roads are congested. Without the investment we need, the gridlock will just get worse, causing even more frustration, pollution and lost productivity.
We need to do more than just finish the motorway network. We need to get on with the city rail link to double passenger capacity and deal with congestion at Britomart. We need light rail on the isthmus, in the East and out to the airport. We need more busways like the Northern Expressway. We need greater ability for people to walk and to cycle safely to school and work. That's how kids used to get to school.
Funding for this infrastructure can't just come out of rates. Auckland pays its fair share and will continue to do so. But the Government must also provide funding to meet the needs of growth. After all, a large portion of the Government's revenue comes from taxes paid by Aucklanders. It must bring the funding forward to anticipate future needs rather than waiting until gridlock paralyses this city.
This is an investment that will pay dividends to all of New Zealand in the future. Auckland must succeed for New Zealand to succeed.
It'll be my job as Mayor to make sure that message gets through.
It's the same for housing. Median house prices in Auckland have gone up by over $180,000 in the last year. The Kiwi dream of owning your own home is slipping out of the reach of more and more Aucklanders. We are now in the world's top ten least affordable cities.
There are ways to bring supply and demand in housing back into balance and Auckland should be strongly advocating for those solutions. Policies that give the building industry confidence and certainty to gear up for construction. Policies that put home buyers ahead of speculators. More intensive housing in the city and along arterial routes is needed. But that must be balanced by good urban design, plenty of public open space and protection for areas of high heritage value.
We need to enhance and sustain our environment. We should be opening up our harbours to people, not extending the port further into the Waitemata to create parking spaces for imported cars. We have to address pollution, silting in the Gulf and harbours and protect our access to recreational fishing. We need an urban forestry programme to green our city.
Last but absolutely not least, for Auckland to succeed, it must operate effectively and efficiently. The Super City was supposed to eliminate bureaucratic duplication and waste. It's fallen short of that target.
Council spent half a million dollars on two reports released last week saying we should privatise our strategic assets. That was a waste. Aucklanders don't want that. Privatising Watercare would double water charges to Aucklanders. I won't let that happen.
Under my leadership, we will be fiscally prudent. We will learn to do more with less. Rate increases have to be brought under control and offset by cutting waste and finding savings.
We need to put our own house in order and make Auckland New Zealand's best performing city. When we do that, we are in a stronger position to leverage Government resources to meet the needs created by rapid growth.
As Mayor, I will bring new leadership, energy, integrity, and commitment.
Auckland needs someone with skills and political experience. Thirty years as an MP and Cabinet Minister has given me a unique set of skills. I've led teams of diverse people and led large organisations tackling complex issues on tight budgets.
I know how central government works and what it takes to make it responsive to our needs. I don't pretend to have all the answers - no one does. But I have a record of sound judgement and doing the job I am entrusted with.
I am running as an Independent. I want to bring an inclusive approach to the Mayoralty and forge a team that works well together for the benefit of this city.
The solutions to our city's problems are not ideological. They must be evidence-driven. I will work with any Government, National or Labour led, to get the best deal for Auckland. The interests of the city and its people will come first. And I will be their fiercest advocate.
Above all, I want to lead a council that remembers that it is a public, democratic and transparent institution - and accountable to Aucklanders.
It is still 10 months before Aucklanders cast their votes. Today is about announcing my candidacy, not launching my campaign. That'll happen much closer to the election when I set out my policy platform.
But in the meantime, know that I understand being Mayor of Auckland is a huge and demanding challenge.
It is also a privilege, a privilege to help to make a difference, and to help to create a better Auckland, so this city is world leading in the quality of life it offers its people.
I'm working for a better Auckland.
A city where talent and enterprise will thrive.
A city that preserves what is good and adapts to meet the challenges of the future.
This city that we call home.
The great city of Auckland.
And today, I ask you to join me.