Phil Goff sat with his hands clasped, that slightly goofy grin. John Tamihere looked surly. His hands were clasped too, it was like they both knew not to clench them. And then it started.
Tamihere called everything broken. Goff said, I don't know what city that is, Auckland's a good city. Goff said he was fixing things and Tamihere said he didn't know what city that was because Goff wasn't doing anything. The words poured from both of them, on waves that rose to anger and subsided, and rose again.
Inside the first five minutes Goff was quoting the Serenity Prayer: God give me the strength to accept what I have to, the courage to change what I can, the wisdom to know the difference. Did it make him seem wise? Not really.
In the chair, Heather du Plessis-Allan asked Tamihere if it was true he made stuff up, and JT said, like what? She said, the idea you could rebuild the harbour bridge into an 18-lane, two-tier highway for all modes of transport, and he said, at least it got a conversation going.
There was so much like that. Answer the question John, Goff would say, or du Plessis-Allan would say, and he would reply, just give me a moment and I will, I'll tell you exactly. And then he wouldn't. He didn't explain one thing.
But he had big ideas. Sell part of Watercare. Sell the port. Rescind the regional fuel tax and make the Government pay for everything. And he's charming.
Every chance he got, he'd say, this guy's got no ideas. And Goff would say, that's not true, and explain his ideas, and tell Tamihere actually it was him who had no ideas, at least no workable ones.
Tamihere had good lines. He's putting me to sleep. I'm not a puppet to Wellington. There's a war on the motorcar. You don't have the guts.
And Goff would say, I'm not a puppet, that's absurd, I got the biggest ever increase in transport funding out of this Government, $9 billion. Your ideas are pixie dust.
And Tamihere would glide to the next thing: that extra funding, 60 per cent of it is unallocated.
Goff: Not true. You just keep making it up.
Tamihere: It's true, 60 per cent, and there's a billion-dollar budget blowout.
Goff: Not true either. You're still making it up.
Nobody can take too much of that. Is Goff leading the city slowly but steadily away from chaos, or is he trapped, as Tamihere said at one point, in a culture of regulations?
And if you think the latter, would Tamihere do any better?
Goff said he'd like his legacy to be clean beaches. He's working on that now.
Tamihere said, clean beaches, but more quickly. And more transport options, more quickly.
He called Goff the prefect he always tried to get away from. Goff fell for it, saying Tamihere was the boy it was hard to control. That was revealing. Everybody likes the kid more. Does it mean they should be the prefect?