COMMENT: The blossom was everywhere, and the tui happily feeding. The sheep in the meadow were happy too, sloughing their way through lush green grass. A shaggy dog appeared and she was happy. The sun shone brightly. The bees in the blossom were happy. Spring in the Clevedon countryside. The mayor arrived on his motorbike, a Triumph, and posed for photos.
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"It's a good shot, you looking like that," said the photographer. "You're backlit like an angel."
It was Sunday, the day after Phil Goff, pocket farmer, politician for life, won a second term.
He didn't just win. He gave his opponent, John Tamihere, a good old-fashioned thrashing. The wisdom of the Super City used to be there was a rock-solid 100,000 votes, minimum, available to the leading centre-right candidate, whoever it was.
This election, it was Tamihere. Yet despite a big spend and a campaign that dominated the headlines, he managed only 70,000. He got done.
Goff wore a bike jacket, his helmet was full face, but he wasn't in full gear.
"Love the bike boots, Phil."
"Yeah, these are my gumboots."
He showed us around. A trailerload of hoardings. A big pile of stakes to hold them in the ground.
"I've resharpened them, ready for next time," he said with a grin.
He pointed out the wood, neatly chopped and stacked against a wall. A pine had blown over and he'd taken to it with chainsaw and axe.
"I like it. It's therapeutic."
He said he was loving having a day off. He woke at 4.30 that morning and was at the emails by 5.30. He had half a dozen interviews to do, that was all, and grass to mow. He likes mowing, that's also therapeutic.
"The place is overrun with rabbits," he said. He'll get out and shoot them. Possibly also therapeutic.
"What I celebrate most is the defeat of Trumpism," he said. "My opponent was loose with the truth, he kept attacking the media, he took me to every complaints tribunal he could. And he didn't win any of them. He was the one found out."
In his big work shed, there's a small boat, a farm bike, household discards and the workings of half-completed projects on the floor. Tools all along one wall and a shelf of Hansards all along the other. We went out to the back patio and he offered instant coffee or chai latte.
This term, he said, he's going to insist the council-controlled organisations (CCOs) get better at explaining themselves. How? The council already controls their budgets, agrees with them on Letters of Intent and receives quarterly reports. What else will he do?
He wasn't clear. He's also going to make it very clear that fat bonuses for senior executives are not acceptable. Some CCOs understand that and some obviously don't.
He's going to set up a review of the CCOs but is he going to ask the Government for legislative reform of the Super City? He's not keen. "I don't want to get bogged down in reviews where nothing happens."
Really? He's often said his hands are tied, especially with Auckland Transport (AT), because he has no legal authority "to interfere in organisational matters". If that isn't changed, he'll just have to interfere anyway, won't he?
"Look, I can't tell them what to do, but I can make it very clear what I expect. And if they ignore that, the council can replace the board members."
Phil Goff, with his dog Belle, on his rural Property in Clevedon. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Goff said he was looking forward to rolling out the Access for Everyone (A4E) programme, which will reduce the number of cars in the central city and improve the experience of pedestrians. But it's nearly a year since the plan was adopted for trialling and nothing's happened.
"First trial this week," he said, "in High St."
Is he disappointed it's taken so long?
"In some ways we may have been overly cautious but when you make progress it's important to take everyone with you."
What about AT's plans to lower speed limits on 10 per cent of Auckland roads? That's coming up soon: will it be politically difficult to introduce?
He talked about the sharp rise in deaths and serious injuries since 2014. "I don't want to look in the other direction," he said. "If there were as many murders as there are deaths on the road, people would think that was an outrage."
What about the council's declaration of a climate emergency? How's that going?
"We have a framework but it's not yet a plan." He said they have to start with transport, and already they've decided not to buy any more diesel buses by 2025.
Is that fast enough?
"No, it's not fast enough."
He wants buses to be included in the feebate scheme for electric vehicles. "Council can't do this on its own. We need to partner with the Government. I think we're going to see stronger interactions."
But, he said, "fundamentally it's got to be about the overall car fleet". He talked some more about pushing for change, yet not changing fast enough, and how you have to take people with you when you change.
Perhaps Extinction Rebellion will force the pace? "It's happening now," he said.
He isn't impressed with the reports of the working group on Upper North Island freight. "We haven't seen the overall impact on the Auckland economy. There's a question of how far freight destined for Auckland will have to travel, and the new infrastructure needed for that. And it's not clear yet what model is proposed: a competitive one, or a collaborative New Zealand Inc one."
But, he added, he would like to see progress on freeing up the port land for the use of Aucklanders.
We drank our chai lattes. The tui chattered, the sheep ate, the dog, who is called Belle, disappeared. You could practically hear the grass growing.
Goff's first big test will be with his own councillors. Barely half of them are loyalists and he'll have to work hard to bring over some of the others.
"I think it's fine. Last term it wasn't much different and I won strong support for all the big proposals. All the budgets."
True, but he also lost a string of votes on topical issues, including the future of speedway and how to support Eden Park. Goff wanted it to be a loan, the council voted to give the park money.
Councillors across the spectrum talk of his weakness at personal relationships. He doesn't agree. He said, "My door is always open," as if unaware that people whose door is closed always say that.
He said he will work hard this term to build a strong consensus, but "one or two councillors seem determined not to work with me". He did not seem to grasp that it's not just his foes who complain about his aloofness. His allies do too.
He has to find new chairs for two of the three big committees and he's talking to councillors now about what they might do in the new term. He might change the structure and the personnel.
He sat there on the patio, alive to the warmth, the cherry blossom, the native bees humming away. He's had a long winter, always under attack, and then that rough campaign. They had 40 mayoral debates, the same claims and counterclaims, angry and angrier, breakfast after breakfast, night after night.
Now it's spring time. There's no easy way forward on any of the big issues and who knows if the mayor can change the culture of council so it builds more public support. But Aucklanders have endorsed his programme: re-elected him and re-elected all but one of the councillors who support him. Just for the moment, Phil Goff seems happy.