6 Sep 2016

Auckland's mayoral contest heats up

12:13 pm on 6 September 2016

Auckland's mayoral contest goes before its biggest audience tomorrow with RNZ's live debate featuring four candidates.

The debate will be hosted by Guyon Espiner and broadcast at 8am on Morning Report, on Freeview Channel 50 and livestreamed on rnz.co.nz and YouTube.

The mayoralty is wide open with the departure of Len Brown after two terms, with a total of 19 candidates putting their hat in the ring.

Auckland's mayoralty race is the country's toughest, needing to connect in person or via social media with a million voters.

Just what are the policies of Phil Goff, Mark Thomas, Vic Crone and John Palino, who you can hear on Morning Report tomorrow, in the key areas of rates and transport, and why do they think they're fit for the job?

Mark Thomas has made several political forays during a career largely focused on business.

He's spent two terms on the Auckland Council's Orakei Local Board.

His most prominent previous political activity was as the National Party's candidate for Wellington Central in 1996.

Famously captured in the documentary Campaign National's heirarchy gave a public nod to ACT's Richard Prebble in an MMP strategic voting move, and Mr Prebble won.

Mr Thomas' policies include giving ratepayers the option of endorsing either a rates freeze or rises of 2 or 4 percent. He will boost transport spending by $113 million, funded by cuts elsewhere in the council, and would create six sub-regional transport boards in a bid to give greater priority to local rather than just regional transport needs.

Phil Goff is the political veteran in the field, seeking the mayoralty, after a 35-year span as the Labour MP for Mt Roskill, except for one term when he was defeated.

He has held cabinet posts and was the leader of the opposition for one term following the ousting of the Labour Government in 2008.

Like most candidates his policies focus on housing, transport and cost-cutting inside the council.

He is pledging average rate rises capped at 2.5 percent, and an efficiency drive he believes can find up to $72m a year.

Mr Goff backs Light Rail, which is a project yet to be given the green light by the council.

He is pitching to voters his knowledge and experience in central government, which he believes will contribute to essential relationships between the council and government.

Vic Crone is a newcomer to politics and campaigning largely on her business expertise.

She left her job as managing director (NZ) of software company Xero after being persuaded to seek the mayoralty.

Ms Crone's campaign has a strong focus on cost-cutting within the council.

She shares a fiscal policy with the National Party-aligned Auckland Future ticket, pledging a 2 percent average rate rise, and making cuts of $500m over the next eight years. The savings would feed other spending.

Her transport policy now includes advocating a 2020 start for twin tunnels between the CBD and North Shore, to carry some form of rapid transit.

Ms Crone pledges a $750m contribution towards the government-planned and funded project, which may otherwise be decades away.

Restaurateur John Palino is making his second tilt at the mayoralty, finishing second in 2013 on 109,000 votes to Len Brown's 164,000.

His campaign became embroiled in the post-election scandal around revelations of Mr Brown's extra-marital affair, and links between the revelation and people associated with his campaign.

Mr Palino proposes shifting the focus on how the city should grow, to concentrating it around high-rise metropolitan centres in the north, west and south, and a new satellite city in the south, easing both housing and transport pressure.

He proposes cutting rates by 10 percent over the next three years.

He has published a 93-page manifesto, with ideas including a citizens' review panel to allow appeals against council decisions, and introduce a ratepayers bill of rights.

Join RNZ's Auckland mayoralty debate at 8am tomorrow. It'll be broadcast on Morning Report, on Freeview Channel 50, and livestreamed on rnz.co.nz and YouTube.

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