Goff responds to disgruntled councillors

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has delivered a response to the nine unhappy councillors.

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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27 Comments & Questions

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Mr Goff has the gaul to state, "There are better ways to communicate than this" after he hid a report for over a year, then heavily redacted information within said report after his hand was forced by an OIA request.

Hypocrite - noun
1.a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2.a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

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Why can’t we all have a look at the unredacted version and see if this report is worth the 900k plus spent on it?

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Let’s be honest ... this is Phil’s last hurrah sucking on the tax payers tit.

Oh all those years of faithful service

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*Gall
Gaul is a region of Western Europe. Best known for its most famous citizens Asterix and Obelix.

Your definition of hypocrite is spot on though and Mr Goff certainly fits it.

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It's all politics rather than actually what is best for Auckland

Christine Fletcher, Mike Lee are hardly great examples of doing the best thing for Auckland - what did they do for Auckland as previous Mayor and Chair of the Auckland Regional Council ?

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Fletcher/Lee - Delivered Britomart. Got Auckland's rail system back from the last century and all under the old Auckland council structure that gave them little strength or budget, asked the right questions of key projects in a democratic way. Goff was supposed to bring spending under control. Instead, he has done the opposite, as well as pursuing vanity projects and railroads projects through without appropriate due diligence or the support of the other democratically elected councillors who are there to provide the checks and balances to our council.

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Auckland would have had a waterfront stadium already, if it wasnt for Mike Lee. And the Government would have come to the party with payment.

Ask yourself, would you let any of the Councillors run your business? Perhaps explains the state of Auckland Citys finances, and the fact that Democracy in its present form is broken. Popularism and profile over business acumen. Its what you get in big business also. Time to bring back small Councils, where the representatives live locally and cant run and hide.

Again, ask yourself who are the winners with globalisation, which encourage scale and specialisation? There's not many.

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Agree that it is politics. Plus the fact that Aucklanders are about to pay for cleaning up Auckland. Pigeons coming home to roost.
On the positive(?) side , having a single council could make the clean- up cheaper and easier .
The interests of the present and future Aucklanders are definitely not being served at this time.

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Most ever useless Auckland pollies
1/ Mike Lee
2/ Les Mills
3/= Christine Fletcher / Victoria Carter/ Len Brown / Phil Goff

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Yes, Les MIlls, a gym, would make a terrible politician, too busy doing cardio and yoga to make any meetings. Still be an improvement on Len Brown 2.0 though...

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The central issue to me is simply the sum this guy spent on the report. Once that is explained, I think I might be able to consider more broadly, everything else.

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Goff is deflecting. No straight forward answer will be forthcoming.

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We will be pushing him for an answer in about half an hour, stay tuned.

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He won't care about how much the report cost because it's not his money. The same could be said of all councils. It's not their money that they spend, it's ratepayers, and when they need more they just put rates up, and it will never end until we get a govt with the balls to regulate them. I for one are not holding my breath until that happens.

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Why did the Mayor agreed to spend $900k on a report when he knew he could not do anything about it because of the lack of funding available?

That report will be irrelevant in 3 years time when the Auckland Council will work on its next long term budget.

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Len Brown championed the CRL, the biggest waste of ratepayers money ever, and Goff is championing a new stadium as his legacy white elephant. Nothing changes, just the idiots in charge of the Asylum..

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Here's a guy that just sat and did nothing for 9 long years in the Clark led Labour govt, now telling his councilors that his door is always open for them to talk about any problems that they may have, while at the same time telling them to shut-up at council meetings.
Goff you really do take the cake.

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When is he going to get rid of the 3000 extra employees who have nothing more to do than think up ways to inconvenience the lives of hard working Aucklanders.
Also get rid of Ateed.
There is a saving of over $300m on the above alone.

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The simple answer to your question is never.

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Did Goff have the authority to commission na almost $1 million report without full council approval, if not can he be surcharged for the cost? Does Goff have the right to legally withold a report? Di Goff tell a blatant lie when he said as reported on RNZ today - I had not seen the report? What authority does Goff reply on to continue witholding redacted details from councilors and the redacted report from the Ratepayer?

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It would be interesting to see if he could be held legally responsible for the many questions that you have asked. There must come a day when councils and their mayors need to be held to account for their frivolous spending. My question is why past and current govt's National and Labour hold back from regulating them in the first place?

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I don't think the "my door is always open" response by Goff is appropriate if there is a culture of bullying in the Council. That would tend to drive people away from using the door and resort to another less confrontational means such as a letter - as has been done.

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Auckland has been poorly governed for at least the past 3 decades. Its had Mayors and Councillors with no long term vision nor understanding of their fiscal responsibilities. Residential rates have risen by 400% of the CPI and wages and salaries over the period from 1980. Check NZ Stats for details. Opportunities have bee squandered. Infrastructure has been delivered too late and too little to meet demand.
Time to clean out this Agean Stables and install people with governance ability not the rank amateurs we have now.

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Sadly everything you have said is true, and needs to change, the question is will it ever?

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Goff came to office with a bunch of promises and has failed to met any one of them.
He then set about attempting to justify his existence and his policy and both have failed.
A vote of no confidence in him is to mind quite justified.
Either pull the head in and get back onto policy as promised or get out of the office.
We deserve and demand better.
This new concept of targeted rates for everything is a nonsense.
Most of the things targeted rates are aimed at are the job of council for which we already pay very high rates.
Our roads are getting worse by the day from gross over use and poor repairs.
Get the priority right and get about doing it. (edited)

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Auckland rates are very cheap. Especially for a place that purports (at least at real estate auction time) to be a global city. Check out property taxes in actual global cities. No wonder we have an infrastructural deficit - too much of kicking cans down the road for others to deal with.

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I have noticed that the only people that say rates are cheap are millionaires. Maybe it's time to think outside your little square Frank. Not everyone out there is a millionaire with money to burn.

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