4 Mar 2019

Auckland mayoralty: Tamihere says time for a real race as Goff confirms candidacy

7:54 am on 4 March 2019

Aucklanders have a mayoral fight on their hands and it looks like it's going to get scrappy.

Mayoral candidates Phil Goff, left, and John Tamihere

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, left, and John Tamihere Photo: RNZ / Supplied

After staying coy for weeks, the current mayor Phil Goff has finally made it official - he will run again.

Mr Goff is barely acknowledging his biggest rival, John Tamihere, but the former Labour MP and broadcaster is already coming out swinging.

Mr Tamihere said it's game on for this mayoral race and Phil Goff was going to need to grow a backbone.

Mr Goff had barely announced he was going to run, when Mr Tamihere was calling him a puppet for central government who has been dithering about whether to run.

"It's taken two and half years for him to come to a decision, six and a half months out from poll date, that he's interested in the job."

Already he's called Phil Goff's mayoralty a failure and accused him of turning a blind eye to corrupt council companies.

Mr Goff, on the other hand, is trying not to talk about Mr Tamihere at all.

"Look I'm not going to comment on competitors for it, I'm not into the politics of personality or personal abuse and I won't indulge in that."

Mr Goff told Morning Report he was absolutely an independent candidate and had not asked for Labour Party endorsement. He said he worked well with National when it was in government.

"I think I know how to get the best deal from central government to Aucklanders but I'm a puppet for no-one."

He said the 3.5 percent rates increases set out in the city's 10-year-budget would not be easy for some people but there were big tasks ahead, including building a transport network and infrastructure for houses and cleaning up the environment.

"Our rates in Auckland have been kept low and reasonable while we've been making unprecedented investment in the stuff that has been in the too hard basket for too long - that's big investment in areas like transport - that we're putting $28 billion in the next 10 years."

Mr Goff said he was upfront in his last campaign for mayor about a regional fuel tax to pay for dealing with traffic congestion, and other candidates who wanted to remove it would have to explain how they would make up the $4.3bn funding gap.

Political PR consultant Ben Thomas said while it may, indeed, be game on, so far things lean more in Phil Goff's favour.

He has a posse of councillors behind him and the backing of Labour which has rejected Mr Tamihere.

And Mr Thomas said even though Mr Tamihere was well known he did not have quite the reach and name recognition that being mayor gave Mr Goff.

"John Tamihere has to try and get attention through the media and the way to do that, you know you see it with Trump in America, is to try to provoke personal confrontations, conflagrations."

While Phil Goff stays away from personality politics, his friend and political ally Penny Hulse did have a few thinly disguised digs at Mr Tamihere at yesterday's announcement, speaking about Mr Goff's respect for women and urging Aucklanders to "stay away from ego driven populists".

Ben Thomas is not surprised Mr Goff is trying to keep out of it.

"As the incumbent mayor you do have that advantage of office ... that you're the mayor and these other people are just sort of challengers or pretenders, so the more that you engage with them on that kind of level, the more you bring them up to be equals to you."

Mr Goff is already trying to leverage the mana of the office as he kicks off his campaign.

"I'll set my own tone for my campaign, I'm not going to be focused on criticising other candidates, I'm going to be focused on the job that needs to be done for Auckland and the skills, and the experience and the integrity that I bring."

He won the last election by more than 70,000 votes.

But Mr Tamihere said recent Auckland mayoral elections have been too easily won - and it's time for a real race.

"We can't allow someone to sleepwalk to victory as he did last election, it was just an unacceptable contest in democratic terms."

The question remains whether a more dynamic mayoral campaign will do anything to pique the interest of the 62 percent of Aucklander who did not vote at all last time.

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