After four decades in public life, outgoing Auckland mayor Phil Goff still doesn't feel as though his job is done.
"I did think about running for a third term and there's part of me that still wishes I had," he tells the Front Page podcast.
"Look, I turned 69 this year and if you want to be mayor you should be in touch with the needs of the up-and-coming generation. I've done 40 years in public life. That's really long enough. But then I looked at the list of candidates and found that one of them is 76 and a group of them in their 70s are running for council positions."
Goff has always been one to choose his words carefully. You don't make it through four decades of both central on local politics if you're loose and wild with what you say. And his choice to focus on age has to be seen as a deliberate – albeit subtle jab – at septuagenarian Wayne Brown, who would be nearing 80 by the end of a first term if voted in.
Goff's concern about the age of our elected representatives isn't limited to the top job in New Zealand's biggest city. Throughout the layers of the council, there has long been a dearth of young talent offering representation to New Zealanders.
"You want your council to be as representative a cross-section as possible," the outgoing mayor says.
"You should always elect your candidates on merit, but it would be great for the city if we as a council represented the people that are out there in the electorate. We have got younger candidates like Richard Hills and Shane Henderson, who both have bright futures. But I look at councils and mayors around the country and we do appear to be over-represented as Baby Boomer males."
So, as an outgoing Baby Boomer himself, who among the current crop of mayoral candidates is best suited to take the top job at Auckland Council?
Goff can't help but chuckle at the question. He's heard this one a few times in recent months.
"If you were to ask me the straight question of who I would vote for, it is a private matter, but my vote will be cast for Efeso Collins."
"Efeso Collins has had six years on council. It's interesting watching the mayoral debates where people say some things that are wide of the mark, he'll correct them because he's had the briefings, he's read the papers, he's got the evidence and he knows what will and won't work. Before that, he also had six years as the chair of a local board. He is well-placed to pick up the tasks of council."
Regardless of who takes the role of mayor, Goff says it's essential that they're willing to work with councillors from all sides of the political divide. He says that this is one of the hardest lessons he had to learn in the transition from central to local politics.
"I never thought I'd miss having a caucus, but at council, you, of course, don't have a caucus. Instead, you've got 20 councillors who represent Labour, City Vision, Communities and Residents and some independent."
Whereas central government policies can often pass with the support of a caucus, mayors need to ensure they have the support of the majority across the group to ensure it comes to fruition.
This challenge contributed to Goff working collaboratively with people who may have been enemies in his Labour Party days.
"What I've learnt to do at council is work with people of all political shades," says Goff.
"Some of my best councillors [don't align with my Labour background]. My deputy mayor is a lifelong member of the National Party, the chair of my finance committee, and her husband was for many years president of the National Party. And the chair of our regulatory committee sought selection as a national candidate. Those are three of my best councillors, frankly."
Goff says what makes these councillors so good is that they have the interests of the city at heart and they're not interested in ideology or party political stances.
"They're saying: 'These are the problems we have to solve as a city. Now, what are the options we've got? What is the best evidence-based way of tackling that problem and getting a solution?' I really enjoy working with people that have that attitude."
Goff makes no secret of the fact that whoever takes over the reins at the city needs to have a strong track record of collaborating with others to ensure that things actually get done. If the next mayor simply doesn't listen to others, then they'll never get the support they need to get their ideas across the line.
Despite his willingness to work with those politically opposed to him, Goff has at times still faced accusations of simply doing the Government's bidding. But in speaking to him, it becomes clear he doesn't agree with everything coming out of cabinet these days: most notably the Three Waters proposal.
"I understand what the central Government's been trying to do for a long time. We've got to have uniformly good standards of fresh water and treated wastewater across the country. In some areas it's abysmal. But in Auckland, we've got Watercare. We already have the economy of scale. We already have professionalism. We already have the best conservation measures and the lowest per capita consumption. We already meter our water, we fluoridate our water. We're doing things well and we're making up for things in the past."
Goff argues that there is no need for Auckland's Watercare systems to be changed given that they're already working.
"You don't need to change us by taking away accountability and responsiveness by the people who run the water supply to the people that consume that water. Right now, they have accountability through us as elected representatives.
"That's one area where I've had quite a different position from Government. I understand their position, but one size doesn't fit all. And this size doesn't fit Auckland."
Beyond the Three Waters proposal, Goff also sees other existing problems in the relationship between central and local government, particularly when it comes to funding.
He contrasts our system to Australia, where funding is devolved to state government to work on infrastructure and other related local problems.
"We don't have a state and federal system in New Zealand, but if you want localism you've got to devolve funding to local government. Too often local government is forced into a situation where rates present a very narrow way of raising revenue for the city."
The argument here is that devolved funding will ensure that those closest to problems at a local level are better equipped to deal with those issues.
"You need to try to make sure that your decisions are made as close as possible to the information that should inform those decisions and as close as possible to where those decisions are likely to have an impact."
Goff says he understands the concerns of doing this in smaller councils where they don't have the expertise to make informed decisions, but this argument simply doesn't apply to Auckland.
"Auckland is different from the rest of the country. We're 1.7 million people. We're a third of the country's population. We've got the competence and we've got the professionalism to do things ourselves."
As Goff prepares to depart his role as mayor, the one thing he hopes is that his successor continues the hard work he put into fighting climate change in Aotearoa's super city.
"We've tried the Los Angeles experiment by just building wider and wider motorways and sprawling the city out," he says.
"It doesn't work because of congestion and it doesn't work because of emissions. And for both those reasons what we're doing in our transport emissions reduction programme is radical. It's going to be a really tough challenge, but if we give up before we start, then we'll never solve congestion. A thousand Aucklanders die each year from traffic pollution. A thousand Aucklanders."
The question now is not only whether the next mayor will continue this fight, but also whether he'll have the ability to convince the other 19 councillors that it's worth the battle.
• The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.