How well have Auckland councillors performed this term? Our council watchers give their verdict.
Auckland councillors have been as whacked around over the past three years as all the rest of us. Covid repeatedly disrupted the work of the council, closing the city for extended periods and requiring several emergency response teams to swing into action. Illness forced the slowdown and often cancellation of many services. Some income sources, especially transport fares, dried up. Inflation took hold.
Council wrote a budget, then scrapped it almost immediately and wrote a new emergency budget, then revised it. In its new 10-year plan and other documents it has committed to a range of overdue infrastructure projects and created a climate action framework, with funding, strategies and measurable targets for the period to 2030 and beyond. This work addresses both mitigation (lower emissions) and adaptation (new infrastructure and plans to deal with storms, floods, droughts and other extreme weather events). It is a significant legacy for the incoming council to build on, assuming it wishes to.
Councillors did a lot of their work remotely, with rules that said only about half of them could turn up to any meeting in person. It worked, but not very well. As many people know, decision-making and teamwork are generally better face-to-face.
Councillors attending over Zoom were supposed to turn their cameras on, but some did not. It became clear that not all "attendees" were at their desks working. We haven't reported attendance records this term, as in our view "I'm working from home without a camera" makes the data unreliable.
Now, deep in the third Covid year, we're all tired and grumpy and looking for someone to blame. The council, like every other government in the world, has had to deal with that, too.
For most proposals, mayor Phil Goff has been able to generate support from around 14 councillors, with a steady seven opposed. There's not been much talk of the "A team" and "B team" this term, although councillor Pippa Coom says Goff's seven regular opponents are now the A team, meaning they're the "against everything" team.
Our council watchers Bernard Orsman and Simon Wilson have produced their councillor ratings separately, without comparing notes first. They've included this term's retirees – Goff, his deputy Bill Cashmore and Cathy Casey – to provide a rounded assessment of the council's work this term.
Voting closes on October 8 and voters are advised to get their voting papers in the mail by October 4. There are drop-off booths at many supermarkets, train stations and other public centres all over the city.
Goff has made good on his climate action promises of 2019, with a climate strategy and a new targeted rate. He fast-tracked the "central interceptor" project, which will massively improve stormwater and wastewater management. He stepped in decisively over safety failures at the port, but allowed a personality feud with Wayne Brown to prevent progress on the port's future.
During Covid, he led the city well through lockdowns, a budget crisis and the pandemic's enormous risk to public health. His compromise response to the new housing-density rules is a high-risk gamble and he gets little thanks for it from anyone. Impressively, he generated support for these things from all, or close to all, the councillors.
A few councillors have firmed up their antagonism to him, but Goff's style has become more open and inclusive this term and it seems hard to blame him for having some enemies. His big fail is in the central city, where he allowed the City Rail Link (CRL) and Queen St construction to destroy businesses and undermine confidence in Auckland as a whole. But he has a steady hand and he may be sorely missed.
As mayor of Auckland, Goff has been true to form - diligent and hard-working, on top of issues, practised a managerial style, and delivered incremental change. He was never going to set the world on fire but found new income streams to broaden the council's balance sheet and increased spending on infrastructure. Average household rates rose by 26 per cent, or $685, to $3306 over six budgets.
A key to his success has been the appointment of two National Party members, his deputy of six years, Bill Cashmore, and Desley Simpson, who as chair of the finance committee helped steer the council through the global pandemic.
He forged a majority across party lines, but also bred a toxic 'A' and 'B' team culture that waned in the second term but still persists.
Mistakes were few, but the highly experience politician caused a bitter and unnecessary row with a $1 million stadium report and leaves with his "bed tax" heading to the Supreme Court in what could end with a multimillion-dollar tab for ratepayers.
Goff ruthlessly addressed workplace safety and productivity issues at Ports of Auckland, claiming the scalps of chief executive Tony Gibson and chairman Bill Osborne.
He leaves with a piece of advice for the new mayor: "If you can't build relationships, if you can't represent the whole of your city, then it's not the right job for you."
Jo Bartley works exceptionally hard for constituents struggling with basic needs: Food, shelter, physical safety. She advocates staunchly for council programmes and for Covid vaccines, both of which have brought her racist abuse and threats of violence. She's incisive and witty in meetings and as deputy chair of the planning committee puts in long hours behind the scenes.
The first Pasifika woman elected to council in a byelection in 2018 is a rising star with a rare ability to frame policy issues around the lives of ordinary people. Threats from anti-vaxxers did not stop her from becoming a driving force to get more South Aucklanders vaccinated against Covid-19, including an event for Black Power chapters. Exudes warmth for her community and has a wicked sense of humour.
Casey has had a quiet term, punctuated by infirmity, but still managed to cement her role as the progressive conscience of the council. Once the firebrand, her spirited proclamations have more latterly come with goodwill and grace. She's retiring and will be fondly remembered by her colleagues.
After four terms on council, the unashamed leftie, pukeko-loving councillor is stepping down. Social issues, like housing and homelessness, have been dear to her heart. At times, Casey has struggled to vote "aye" on issues, wishing her colleagues would move further to the left. Her fiery speeches and exchanges will be missed around the council table.
Cashmore is also retiring. The deputy mayor, a National Party member, teamed up with Labourite Goff to spearhead the council's cross-party influence-building in Wellington and has also been instrumental in the nuts and bolts work of council policy and a tireless champion for his enormous, mainly rural Franklin ward.
The rock. Unpopular choice with the left when Goff picked him as deputy mayor in 2016, but the National Party member has earned widespread respect for working across party lines, being across the detail, an eternal optimist and bringing a pragmatic lens to projects like Mill Rd in South Auckland. The farmer will be an enormous loss when he steps down next month.
Having once been uncertain of his role, Fa'anana Efeso Collins has become a leader. During Covid he worked tirelessly in his ward and became an outspoken and effective critic of the vaccine rollout. An inspiring orator and an independent spirit, he's more than once opposed both Goff and the Government. Attendance data is suspect but Collins has probably been in meetings less than most. Points off for that.
The Labour councillor has not showered himself in glory this term, saving his charisma, smarts and oratory skills for the punishing schedule of a mayoral campaign. A low attendance record and exclusion from the 'A' team kept him away from the levers of power. Pushed for greater vaccination against Covid of vulnerable groups, including Māori, Pasifika, and those in South Auckland,
A new councillor this term, Coom is a policy wonk who knows what's in the reports better than some of the officials who write them. She's steered a lot of the policy development and worked especially hard to encourage Auckland Transport to deliver safer streets. A councillor of substance whose contributions are invariably incisive and considered.
Unashamedly progressive, the Waitematā and Gulf councillor gets around the inner-city ward on a bike. Smart and a swot on the council's climate plans and policies, Coom is a poster child for the movement to zero emissions and vilified by those who believe their car-based way of life is under threat.
Chair of the council's regulatory committee, Cooper has become a more assured contributor to meetings. She's a National Party member and an outspoken advocate for climate action, although last year she confused that by seeming to protest against a cycleway in Henderson, before saying she didn't join the protest.
The Nat has become a well-established member of Phil Goff's 'A' team, earning high praise as chair of the regulatory committee. As a Westie, Cooper has been heavily influenced by former Waitākere City and Auckland Council deputy mayoral Penny Hulse. Gets frustrated at the lack of public transport spending in the West. More confident and vocal around the council table this term.
Dalton was elected in 2019 on a ticket with her ward co-councillor Daniel Newman, but the two have since split. While Newman opposes most of what the council does, Dalton is an advocate, developing policy with Pippa Coom and others and ensuring the vulnerable communities of her ward are not ignored.
After a long political relationship with fellow Manurewa-Papakura councillor Daniel Newman, she parted ways to pursue more progressive policies, albeit including better roading to address transport poverty in South Auckland. Studious and hardworking, Dalton has brought fresh thinking and intellectual rigour to the council chamber. A rising star.
As chair of the planning committee, which includes transport, Darby is the architect of much of the council's direction of travel. He has an acute grasp of climate challenges, is well versed in planning details and wants to improve community consultation by introducing citizens' assemblies. A bit too fond of declaiming.
The chair of the planning committee is all over the details, sometimes to his own detriment. Highly intelligent and a big-picture thinker means he's something of a pointy head, which doesn't always go down well with colleagues. Often annoys staff, which can be a good thing. Apologised to Goff and councillors in 2020 for floating a partial sale of Ports of Auckland without warning.
Chair of the parks, arts, community and events committee, Filipaina is a Goff loyalist, a highly respected leader in the civic life of South Auckland and a short-tempered critic of colleagues he believes are wasting council time.
Peeved when he wasn't made deputy mayor in 2016, Filipaina has knuckled down as chair of the parks, arts, community and events committee and become a valued member of 'Team Goff' and a good-natured leader. The former cop helped broker a truce between two gangs involved in multiple shootings this year.
Fletcher is at the end of her fourth term on the Super City and wants a fifth. It's not clear why. The former Auckland City mayor is knowledgeable and conveys an air of being influential. But she has become disconnected and relentlessly negative and is rarely listened to by colleagues.
The veteran politician remains on the outer, harping on about process and how Goff runs the council. Fletcher has a great legacy as the leader who built the Britomart railway station but is no longer in tune with the political dynamics and current events.
Also a first termer, Henderson is the only councillor who opposed Goff's "special character areas" exemption for the Government's new housing density rules – from the left. He represents the struggling suburbs of the west and does not believe leafy suburbs closer to town should be exempt from development. Competent deputy chair of the finance committee.
Auckland Council has a new firebrand to replace Cathy Casey. Shouty critic of Nimbys and their kauri villas. Unless old homes have heritage status, Henderson insists they be rezoned for high-density housing to deal with the climate crisis. The young Labour councillor was made finance committee deputy chair in his first term, where he has yet to make his mark. A politician to watch.
As chair of the climate-change committee, Hills led the creation of Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland's Climate Plan (unanimous council support) and the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (17-3 support). Significant achievements. He pushes officials hard, is respected in his ward for the local work he does but, surprisingly, is not a natural public speaker.
A Labour and Goff loyalist on the rise, although his ambitions to stand for the mayoralty were thwarted by the arrival of a son and Collins staring him and the Labour Party down. Probably a blessing in disguise. Still needs to do a lot of growing in the political space, and moderate partisan views if he still hankers for the mayoral chains. This term, he's become a more confident and better speaker, relishing being chair of the environment and climate change committee.
First-term councillor Mulholland is not a member of Goff's broad left-right coalition and it's a puzzle why. Quite often, she seems to make up her mind as she speaks, so that she'll start with one idea and end up contradicting it. Good local connections in the ward.
There's nothing particularly subtle about Mulholland, whose quitting Labour in 2019 for Communities and Residents sidelined her with the left on the council. Blunt speaker who chips in with the occasional speech. Votes with the 'B' team against many mayoral proposals. Has regeneration in central Avondale to focus on.
Newman works hard locally and is well versed in the details of policy analysis. He comes from "old Labour" and therefore is a former mate of Goff, but has drifted across to the National Party and sits outside Goff's broad tent. Less energy than formerly and less active as opposition "leader", too.
The unofficial leader of the 'B' team in the first term has lost much of his shine. Falling out with fellow Manurewa-Papakura councillor Angela Dalton has taken the wind out of his sails. Understands the politics, policy and workings of the council, but made little progress this term. Like Mulholland, beats a retreat to his ward to go knocking on doors and connect with constituents. Could bounce back from a change of mayor.
Sayers speaks once on items of note, calling for less spending on the city and more help for Rodney, but doesn't seem to have a working relationship with anyone at council. Famous among colleagues and in social media for a ramblingly incoherent and slurry speech on Zoom, camera off, late in an all-day meeting.
Been pushing to increase spending to reseal Rodney's gravel roads, but votes "no" to the budgets containing road improvements. Re-elected unopposed in 2019, but facing a strong challenge this year from former Act party deputy leader Beth Houlbrooke, who cites his negative records among reasons to stand.
As Goff's numbers supremo, chair of the finance committee and the value-for-money committee. Simpson has managed emergency budgets, cut billions from spending, lowered the debt ratio and grown the asset base. Everyone admires and likes her, even critics who complain about "waste". A remarkable councillor.
As chair of the finance committee, steered through the Covid-impacted Emergency Budget containing a $900m hole with blood, sweat and tears, earning universal respect from colleagues. Hard-working, astute and popular, she's standing again in Ōrakei. A strong contender for deputy mayor. Known to vote against Goff, but makes the reasons known.
Along with Casey, Fletcher and Filipaina, Stewart has been on Auckland Council since it began in 2010. She votes against almost everything, especially if it has to do with climate action, but complains other councillors aren't doing enough for the climate. Shows little understanding of finance, issues or policies.
A Manukau and Auckland councillor since 1998 when she was awarded the Queens Service Medal for services to Howick. Stewart's strengths best suit the Howick Local Board, not the council, where she contributes little at a regional level. No matter how hard Goff and Simpson work to hold down rates, Stewart always votes "no".
Walker delivers a rant on every topic but no one listens: His colleagues mostly seem to have lost patience with the exhausting way he wastes their time. He says he's a greenie but votes against climate proposals and promotes vehicle use.
* Correction: An earlier version of this article wrongly claimed Wayne Walker had spoken at a front meeting for Voices for Freedom. He did not attend any meeting and has no association with Voices for Freedom. The error is regretted.
Most councillors roll their eyes and turn off when Walker gets up to speak. He will preface a question with a speech, often critical of officers, and the chair often interrupts to tell him to get on to the question. Hogged much of the time during a 10-hour meeting on new housing rules. Walker is intelligent and can be impressive at public meetings. Part of the impregnable Albany team with John Watson, both stalwarts of the 'B' team.
When Watson speaks at council meetings he is invariably well prepared with evidence he believes shows the council's got everything wrong. He's on the left but his opposition to Goff is so furious and apparently personal, he never progresses his position. Has spoken at a front meeting for Voices for Freedom - however Watson says he was not aware that meeting had any link to Voices for Freedom.
The other half of the Albany anti-Goff brigade. Sharper and more politically astute than Walker, Watson has been a constant thorn in Goff's side. Supports heavy rail over light rail, opposes hocking off marina land for housing, and changes for regional parks and Hauraki Gulf leading to a code of conduct complaint that was dismissed. If only his talent could be directed into positive work.
Young was isolated and said little when he began on the council, but he now works hard and speaks concisely and well on behalf of his ward and the Chinese community more broadly. Auckland's sole Asian councillor faces a big threat this election from retired National Party bigwig Maurice Williamson.
The first Asian councillor on council after replacing the late Dick Quax. Taken under Stewart's wing to vote against most council measures. Schmoozing by the 'A' team saw him swap sides to become a Goff loyalist. Speaks more this term and regularly attends functions with the 'A' team. Facing a daunting task to be re-elected with Sharon Stewart and former Cabinet minister Maurice Williamson on the same ticket for the two Howick seats.