Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has delivered a letter in response to the nine councillors who made public a letter outlining concerns about his leadership of the country's largest city.
Of particular concern to the councillors was the $923,000 given to Auckland Regional Facilities to spend on commissioning PwC reports on a proposed downtown stadium for Auckland. They also expressed frustration that Mr Goff didn't share copies of the reports to them for over a year until the Ombudsman intervened.
Mr Goff began his response with a slap on the wrist, criticising the councillors for releasing their letter to media at midday on Wednesday.
“There are better ways to communicate than this and as you are aware my door is always open to councillors to discuss any issues of concern to you.”
So far, he has not met NBR requests for an interview on the councillors' concerns.
In his letter, Mr Goff says on becoming mayor, he asked Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) to do the work necessary to find which sites in the city centre might ultimately be acceptable for a stadium and costs and feasibility of those sites.
He was briefed by RFA on the work it had PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) do on the stadium in July and October of last year.
Mr Goff says he did not request copies of the report done at that time because he did not want the stadium to be a distraction from the key infrastructure investment the council needed to address as a priority in the region's Long Term Plan.
“I have consistently and publicly said that I will not make the stadiums issue a priority ahead of pressing needs in transport, housing and the environment. However, we will need to start planning for a world-class stadium for Auckland to replace Eden Park when it is necessary.”
Mr Goff says he made copies of the full reports “immediately available” to councillors to read.
To honour obligations to those who required confidentiality, the report was not circulated in an electronic form, he says.
“In response to requests by councillors, I was happy subsequently for councillors to hold and to read the report in their offices.
“Council staff advised me that the Ombudsman is satisfied with this arrangement and regards it as acceptable.”
Councillors at odds
The councillors released their letter on Wednesday, expressing their concerns that a “significant sum” went into the reports, which far exceeded initial expectations.
"As we understand it, the original quote was for a fee of 'up to $600k' for the work outlined. A further $355k in cost was then added when you [Mr Goff] personally requested more information on the funding options for a stadium.
"In light of both the cost and significance of this study, we are concerned that the two reports produced [the first of which was published in June 2017] have only just come to our attention. This, in turn, has only occurred in response to the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request from the media, which was subsequently appealed successfully to the Office of the Ombudsman."
They also questioned why it took the mayor nearly a year to release the reports to them.
"We remind you we are duly elected members of the Auckland Council, just like you," the letter said.
The councillors say after Mr Gofff was forced by the Office of the Ombudsman to release the report, the copies they received were “heavily redacted.” They say the censored form was “questionable to say the least.”
“In refusing to provide us with an unredacted copy on the same ground you have enjoyed yourself, you appear to be drawing little distinction between your elected colleagues and the public.”
The councillors assert if it the matter was an isolated incident they would have overlooked Mr Goff’s actions but say it is reflective of leadership style which has become “increasingly apparent” as his term has progressed.
The nine councillors who signed the letter are Mike Lee, Efeso Collins, John Watson, Wayne Walker, Greg Sayers, Cathy Casey, Daniel Newman, Sharon Stewart and Chris Fletcher.
Mr Goff won the mayoralty in October 2016 after a 32-year career as a politician in central government.
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