In a high-tension showdown, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff likened John Tamihere to US President Donald Trump for claiming he would build a double decker Auckland harbour bridge, while Mr Tamihere said Mr Goff was a Wellington puppet.
About 100 people turned up to the mayoralty candidates meeting at the Mahurangi East Community Hall, organised by the Snells Beach Residents and Ratepayers Association (SBRRA) on Sunday, September 1.
Mr Goff opened by listing his accomplishments, including having gained a pledge from central government to spend $18 billion on transport in Auckland over the next 10 years. Mr Tamihere responded by accusing Mr Goff of allowing Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs), including Auckland Transport (AT), to get out of control with wasteful spending on external contractors.
“Money is going down the gurgler in the central city, and the outer areas are an afterthought,” Mr Tamihere said. “The AT board will be sacked as soon as I am downtown.”
It wasn’t long before the Hill Street intersection was brought up.
SBRRA chair Mark Dinniss quizzed the candidates on how they would fix the fact that works on the Hill Street intersection have not been budgeted to coincide with the completion of the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway and the Matakana link road. Mr Goff said Council had already put in $60 million for the link road, and other projects around Auckland also took priority.
“You can’t bring everything forward – that’s not how a budget works. Hill Street is not the only problem we have to deal with across the whole Auckland area, and that’s the honest answer.”
In reply, Mr Tamihere said he would seek to renegotiate with central government to bring forward some of the $18 billion in funds promised for transport, to address projects such as Hill Street.
“Give me the mandate to sort out Wellington. The election will take place next year and you can’t rule New Zealand without the approval of Auckland. The MPs are here.”
Mr Goff pointed out that if Mr Tamihere intended to cut Council income with a rates freeze at the same time as asking for more money from Wellington, the government would be unlikely to consider the proposal favourably.
The candidates were also asked whether they would bring forward further funding for sealing Rodney’s roads, as currently the bulk of $121 million in budgeted work was not slated for another nine years.
Mr Goff said when the Supercity formed, Rodney had 77 per cent of the unsealed roads in Auckland and that legacy of under-investment would take time to fix.
“It would be better if we could bring forward sealing, but I don’t think there is an appetite for rates or taxes to be increased substantially. There’s no other source of funds for those projects apart from us, the ratepayers.”
The SBRRA raised the Rodney Local Board transport targeted rate with candidates, suggesting that a $46 million mayoral long-term plan had already been earmarked to support local buses and park n’ rides and that the targeted rate ought to be removed.
Mr Goff said in his home district of Franklin, a targeted rate had proved effective at fixing transport woes.
“I am not going to trample on the right of a local board to put a targeted rate in place. I say it takes courage and determination to make it happen.”
Mr Tamihere said that local boards needed to consider using private-public partnerships with a user-pays model as a tool for projects like park n’ rides.
Who is running for Mayor?
The 21 candidates are: Tricia Cheel, STOP Trashing our Planet; Michael Coote, independent; David John Feist, LiftNZ; Genevieve Forde, independent; Phil Goff, independent; Alezix Heneti; Jannaha Henry; John Hong, independent; Ted Johnston; Susanna Kruger, Justice for Families; Craig Lord, independent; Brendan Maddern, independent; Thanh Binh Nguyen, independent; Phil O’Connor, Christians Against Abortion; Tom Sainsbury, independent; Glen Snelgar, Old Skool; Tadhg Topford, The Hemp Foundation; John Tamihere; Peter Vaughan; Annalucia Vermunt, Communist League; Wayne Young, Virtual Homeless Community.