This week, Indian Weekender spoke to Phil Goff, Tricia Cheel, Penny Bright and Mark Thomas and asked them about their vis\ion for Auckland, how they plan to address the two important issues faced by Aucklanders—public transport and housing—and their view on the Auckland Unitary plan.

Phil Goff

A born and bred Aucklander, Phil Goff has represented Mt Roskill for 10 terms of parliament. He became New Zealand’s youngest cabinet minister in 1984, and in the following 15 years, he covered a number of portfolios including housing, environment, trade, and defence. He was also the first Minister of Trade of a developed country to negotiate a free trade agreement with China.

Your plan for the first 60 days in office if elected

The first task is to put together a budget, which will be due within the first four weeks after the swearing-in of the new council. Secondly, I want to meet the ministers of housing and finance to discuss the government’s infrastructure fund and to bring it to a realistic level so that we can meet the needs of a growing city.

I would also meet with Auckland Transport and Auckland central government transport agencies to prepare a blueprint of how we can prevent worsening congestion. Lastly, I would meet with the minister of police to discuss why in the last five years we have increased our police force in Auckland by only five additional officers, which is one a year when the population went up by 45,000 alone in the last year.

I would also start work on my one million trees programme designed to make Auckland more pleasant to live and to absorb carbon emission.

Your views on the Auckland Unitary plan

I support the Unitary Plan. If we are going to grow by a million people in the next 30 years, we have to go up and out where we need to intensify firstly in long transport routes and transport hubs, and town and city centres so that way we can address both the housing and transport problems. 

Your approach to the housing and public transport issues

One, we need to implement the Unitary Plan. Two, we need to review and improve the building and resource consent process so that it is quicker, more efficient, and cheaper. Three, we need measures to stop people from land banking for speculation. Four, we have to get the government to increase the size of its infrastructure fund from one billion dollars covering five growth areas to a much more realistic level. Fifthly, we need the government to embark on a programme to provide affordable and social housing. I would be lobbying the government to divert foreign investment from existing houses into new houses. If the government is not ready to help meet the infrastructure needs, then they have to curb the right of that growth.

For transport, we need to look at alternate funding sources to build new transport infrastructure, which may be the government giving more help or we can look at the private-public partnership. We need more busways and cycleways. We need to bring forward discussion around light rail and need to look at providing rapid transport to the airport. 

Three initiatives you plan on undertaking as the mayor

The first would be addressing the housing affordability and availability crisis and the initiatives would focus on balancing the demand and supply of the houses. Second is addressing the growing transport congestion, and third would be to capture the efficiencies that the supercity was designed to create so that we avoid duplication and waste, and address the length of coordination between the council and council-patrolled organisations such as Auckland Transport.

Your vision for the future of Auckland

Auckland needs to be a place where talent and enterprise can thrive so that it becomes a centre of learning, innovation, and technological development. Auckland will be the place where we attract and retain the best and the brightest people from New Zealand and beyond.

The second part is that Auckland is an inclusive place where people of all ethnicities and religions are welcome. Also, inclusive in the sense, where young people can get the best start in life.

I want to protect and sustain Auckland's environment and heritage so that we have a city that has character, and it looks after the things that make it a special place to live in. Also, the city needs to be governed and managed according to the international best practices so that we deliver the best possible quality of services to its people.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas is an experienced business executive with an extensive community leadership background. He ran an Auckland-based strategy and marketing consulting business for 10 years dealing with major international and New Zealand companies, industry organisations and not-for-profit groups. He has been a Deputy Chair of the Orakei Local Board since 2010. He was re-elected in 2013.

Your plan for the first 60 days in office if elected

I will set the platform for my vision of an Auckland that works much better for Aucklanders. By day 60, I will have developed my draft budget for consultation, identified savings of $35 million and started redirecting funding into our delayed top transport and housing projects. I will also have started work to rebuild trust and confidence in the council and begin the process of transferring decision-making and funding to the local boards.

Your views on the Auckland Unitary Plan

It is not a silver bullet. It will make it easier to develop more housing in suburban Auckland, but by itself, it provides no guarantee of quicker, more affordable housing or of better roads/busways and rail we need to support this growth. It also may not be strong enough to protect the character we value. It creates new rules that make housing development easier in many areas, but in areas such as Takapuna, Henderson and Manukau, development has been possible under the old rules. I will use my detailed knowledge of the Unitary Plan to support it, making good, sensible development but will use my council understanding of the traditional problems to ensure we change the council culture and funding issues that have been holding us back.

Your approach to the housing and public transport issues

I will use the development business the council owns, Panuku Development Auckland, to make quicker progress, letting developers build more affordable housing in the key “metro centres” including Henderson, Onehunga, and Manukau. I will use my experience on the government’s Rules Reduction Taskforce to cut more council red-tape and change the council culture to be more customer-focused. My rewrite of the budget will restore the $110million cut from the transport budget so we can invest more in the backlog of traffic congestion issues that has Aucklanders currently wasting 20 days a year stuck in traffic.

Three initiatives you plan on undertaking as the mayor

One, make the council more affordable by rewriting the critical Auckland Plan to focus it on more of our top priorities. Two, fast-track the key busway and rail planning projects in the North, West, East, and South of Auckland. Three, restore trust in the council by boosting local board powers and resourcing, and by introducing citizen veto rights so we re-establish the “local” in local government.

Your vision for the future of Auckland

I want an Auckland that works better for all Aucklanders. That means making Auckland Council more affordable—reducing waste and spending more of people’s hard-earned money on our key transport and housing priorities. It also means delivering better transport sooner. Using the funding, I will reprioritise from my budget rewrite into more busways, roading, and rail planning. And it means sorting out our growth and housing problems by using my combined business and council experience to change the council culture to make quicker progress, building more affordable housing, particularly in the areas of Auckland where the council owns a lot of land. I also want the council stepping up to help make our communities and businesses safer. There is more council can do here too.

Penny Bright

With a 20-year experience in local government, defending the public and their interest, as a self-funded anti-privatisation and anti-corruption 'public watchdog', Penny Bright says that as mayor, she would bring council services and regulatory functions back "in-house" under the public service model, and stop corrupt cronyism and corporate welfare.

Your plan for the first 60 days in office if elected

I intend to have the framework for ensuring that the “rule of law” regarding ratepayers and citizens’ lawful rights to “open, transparent and democratically-accountable” local government in Auckland is in place, particularly the Public Records Act 2005. The Public Records Act 2005 is currently not being implemented and enforced, although it has been a law for the past 11 years. My plan is to employ, attached to and paid for from the Auckland Mayoral Office budget, a small team of forensic accountants/auditors who will go through the books with a fine-tooth comb and find out where every dollar of rates (and all monies) collected by Auckland Council (and Auckland Council Controlled Organisations—CCOs) is being spent, invested, and borrowed.

I have been focused on Auckland Council and CCO spending, on private sector consultants and contractors, particularly on having the following information available for public scrutiny:

  • The unique contract number
  • The name of the consultant/contractor
  • A brief description of the scope of the contract
  • The contract start/finish dates
  • The exact dollar value of each and every contract, including those sub-contracted
  • How the contract was awarded, by direct appointment or public tender

I will then make that information available to the public, via Auckland Council and Auckland CCO websites. That is the first step in establishing cost-effectiveness—finding out exactly where the costs fall.

Having attended five international anti-corruption conferences, it is my opinion that the root cause of most grand corruption is the privatisation, contracting out of central and local government public services. How is it decided who gets the contracts? What are the links between those who give and those who get these contracts?

Your views on the Auckland Unitary Plan

The Auckland Unitary Plan is a democracy for (commercial property) developers. The underpinning Auckland Spatial Plan was not based upon the “rule of law” because the population growth projection used was 'high' (an extra million people coming to Auckland by 2040) when the Department of Statistics recommended 'medium' (an extra 700,000 people). The Auckland Spatial Plan was supposed to be "evidentially based" and "coherent". It was neither. Auckland Council was working towards the 'high' population growth projection, while two major infrastructure providers, Auckland Transport and Watercare Services, were working to the 'medium' population growth projection—the difference being another 300,000 people.

Your approach to the housing and public transport issues

The question is why does all this "growth" have to come to Auckland? Where is the national population growth, migration and regional employment strategy? The central government and Auckland Council need to work together on this, and there needs to be sensible, co-ordinated planning, not market madness.

There is actually no such thing as public transport in Auckland. There are 10 private bus companies, four private ferries, and a French multi-national is running Auckland trains. The only thing that is public, is the million dollars of public subsidies for private passenger transport services, which Auckland Transport will not reveal on the grounds of “contractual confidentiality”.

If the private sector is so efficient, why do they need public subsidies? Why should the public subsidise that which we no longer own, operate, or manage? I believe that public transport should again be made public and operated as an essential public service.

Same with housing. I am absolutely opposed to the privatisation of public (State and Council) housing, by NGOs, Iwi or corporate charities.

Three initiatives you plan on undertaking as the mayor

Covered in preceding answers

Your vision for the future of Auckland

For the Auckland region to be governed in the interests of locals and local communities, and for the public majority to benefit from the spending of public monies, not a corporate minority. For the people of Auckland to take back control of our region from the corporate one per cent.

Tricia Cheel

Born in Onehunga, Tricia Cheel feels that fellow Aucklanders are being poisoned due to fluoridation. She studied in Auckland from 1967—the year she says fluoridation began—to 1971, and often wondered why she felt perfectly fine back home during the holidays while for the rest of the year, she felt like she was "walking through treacle". She says that as soon as she stopped drinking artificially fluoridated tap water, she felt better in a day. Her goal—a truly 'organic' Auckland as soon as possible.

Your plan for the first 60 days in office if elected

Turn the fluoride tap off, as per the last referendum in Onehunga where 66% voted against fluoridation. An immediate moratorium on glyphosate, 1080 poison, and other unnecessary toxic substances and practices for all urban environments and put the rest of the region on notice that permits will eventually be required to use any of these as seen in Hudson, Quebec, Canada. Implement the police recommendations around gambling, violence, alcohol and other drugs.

Engage DHBs and Medical School to study the results of lifting this toxic burden off the community and environment with a view to the government contributing from the savings made to health, welfare, and police budgets.

Engage government in making immigration manageable, and extracting rightful taxes from big business so corporate sponsorships, involving naming rights and signage, are removed incrementally from all the public venues without the users suffering while protecting our young people from the conflicting messages about their health and safety concerning junk food, alcohol, and other harmful influences.

Remove undue corporate influence in decision making, signifying the culture change from ego-centric corporate profiteering that has produced poverty and homelessness, pollution and extinction; and to ecologically sound governance where everybody can enjoy a good life full of opportunity.

Your views on the Auckland Unitary Plan

My initial overview is that it is an appalling document that could result in cheap and nasty housing and insufficient green space left for an expanding population, but have to work with it creatively.

Your approach to the housing and public transport issues

Two of Auckland’s major problems, housing and transport, are inevitable results of the crux of the problem, which is the council operating with an extravagant corporate mindset for far too long. It would be tackled from both the strategic ecologically sound overview of integrated organic management systems and local community-based solutions.

Three initiatives you plan on undertaking as the mayor

First, a pilot programme of innovative integration of funding streams to be more economic and effective and deliver better outcomes for all.  Second, local community-based actions to tackle transport, waste, weed management and other issues. Third, a blueprint to becoming New Zealand’s first organic city by 2020.

Your vision for the future of Auckland

My vision for Auckland is to become the healthiest, kindest, and the happiest city in the world, with the lowest carbon footprint possible because there is a rich, thriving, diverse culture where people are engaged in contributing to the solutions once they feel appreciated, valued, empowered and included, even if they have ‘dissenting’ views.