13 Jun 2018

Deputy backs Goff over 'strong dissatisfaction' letter

8:59 pm on 13 June 2018

Auckland mayor Phil Goff's deputy has come to his defence, saying he hopes a frank discussion with councillors can solve whatever problem they have with the mayor.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Nine councillors put their name to a letter to Mr Goff that was made public today, in which they said he was shutting them out and creating a distrustful working environment.

The letter, a copy of which was found - according to the mayor's staff - on an unattended desk at reception, stated that over a period of nearly a year Mr Goff had made no attempt to inform councillors about the contents of a $900,000 report about a downtown stadium.

They said he had failed to inform them that it had even been written.

Mr Goff said he had only received the PWC report - which recommended another, more detailed report - three or four weeks ago.

"It was delivered in a form to be made public that was redacted. Those redactions were solely a matter of the negotiation between our legal division, Regional Facilities Auckland and our LGOIMA unit and the Ombudsman.

"I had nothing to do with that - but, every councillor ... got access to an unredacted copy, they could read the copy in full," he said.

Mr Goff said he had not released electronic copies because of concern it would be leaked to the media.

He said he trusted most councillors, but not everyone.

"Unfortunately, confidential material has been leaked to the media, and in this case with commercial sensitivity being involved and undertakings that were requested from us by the stakeholders in this matter we did not want that to happen - we are protecting the interests of third parties," he said.

None of the nine councillors who signed the letter would be interviewed today, but they said Mr Goff's behaviour fell short of the sort of transparency and inclusiveness expected in a matter where the report itself cost almost $1 million.

Deputy mayor Bill Cashmore said he was not happy about the letter and did not know what the councillors meant about a "distrustful political working environment".

"There is obviously an issue," he said.

"I want to find out exactly what it is and find out what they see as a solution for solving it.

"In my experience in the real world, [the solution] is that by people sitting around and a table and having open and frank discussions you can solve most things if the will and the aspiration to solve them is there.

"I can certainly assure you the will and the aspiration - on behalf of the mayor, myself and the chairs of the committees - is certainly there," he said.

Mr Goff, replying to the letter, said he was not an autocrat. He said he was elected by the people of Auckland and was directly accountable to them.

"I do not chair meetings autocratically and work at being fair to everyone wishing to speak. However, the requirements under law and the expectations of the electorate are that I exercise leadership.

"After due consideration and consultation my responsibility is to make recommendations which you will not always agree with. That is the nature of my job and I don't retreat from that responsibility."

"My preference is to work to achieve a consensus of councillors but each of you have your own opinions and vote accordingly and I respect that.

"Political decisions do create division and controversy at times, but all of us should acknowledge the need for tolerance, courtesy and working in the best interests of our community."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs