Phil Goff's clean, green mayoralty re-election campaign launch

9:52 am on 19 August 2019

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff wants to place a big focus on improving the region's natural environment and tackling climate change if he's elected for a second term, but he's going to need a lot of support from central government.

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Phil Goff during his mayoralty campaign launch. Photo: Matthew Theunissen/ RNZ

His official campaign launch yesterday was attended by numerous Labour Party ministers, and he tried to get them on side to push through plans like the electrification of the city's diesel bus fleet.

In front of about 200 supporters Mr Goff said he'd make the environment the central plank of his re-election campaign.

If re-elected he said council cars would transition to hybrid or electric, and he'd already had talks with central government about electrifying the city's diesel buses.

He used the opportunity to try get his old colleague in the crowd, Transport Minister Phil Twyford, on board with the plan.

"We're putting $29 billion now into our Auckland Transport Alignment Programme. And I want to acknowledge that $19 billion of that ... came from government. And I also want to say it's still not enough, Phil. We need more."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Phil Goff. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Mr Goff promised to prioritise stopping wastewater spilling into the city's beaches each time it rained.

"We are already seeing parts of our city that are not any longer habitable - just a handful of houses at the moment - but in the coming decades, that will be hundreds of houses. We have to act and we have to act now."

He told Morning Report today it was all budgeted already.

"We started a week ago the commencement of construction on the central interceptor which is a $1.4 billion massive pipeline that goes from Grey Lynn all the way through to Māngere - necessary for increased growth but necessary to stop those sewage overflows onto our beaches that happens every time it rains.

"I've made it quite clear that within this decade we will have stopped 90 percent of those overflows 20 years ahead of the programme the council had laid out at the time I became mayor."

He told Morning Report it would be paid for through the usual methods of rates and central government funding, and took the opportunity to attack Mr Tamihere's plan to sell half of Watercare and some of the operations of Ports of Auckland.

"While the future of the ports and its longevity of its presence is in doubt and there's a major government report into whether it should be moved you don't have a saleable port operation so that's just a nonsense.

"On Watercare, if you sell half the value of Watercare which is probably about $5bn that would automatically put every Auckland household's water rates annually up by $200 to $300 a year."

He couldn't have made the distinction between himself and his rival John Tamihere any clearer.

"We've got Diwali coming up, which is the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. And, ironically, Diwali is celebrated in Aotea Square on the 12th of October, the day the election results are announced. So here's to the victory of good over evil and light over darkness."

John Tamihere

John Tamihere. Photo: Twitter

Mr Tamihere rejected the proposition that Mr Goff is the more environmentally friendly of the two candidates.

"The biggest issues Aucklanders have in their minds in uppermost are transport and gridlock, are housing and homelessness, and are rates.

"That is their focus. That's the focus that any leader of the city should concentrate on. Obviously environment is part of it, but it is a very important part of a sequence of events rather than the total story."

Mr Tamihere said he'd be releasing his full environmental policy in two weeks.

Unrealistic visions

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett criticised both candidates for focusing on unrealistic visions for the city.

"We've seen barging the cars from the Ports of Auckland come up in the last week. We've seen a massive bridge promised to go across the harbour. These are all things that are 10, 15 years out. They're not going to fix the immediate problems."

Mr Goff told Morning Report the Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson was behind his plan, there was a company interested in following it through, and the business case was now being tested.


"The company that's interested in doing it absolutely believes that it's viable, and of course if you can barge cars of the wharf you can clear the wharfs more quickly but you can also remove truckload after truckload of imported cars from clogging up the central city area and the motorway.

"I've done enough work to know that there is a sound business case that can be made but now we're doing the proper investigation, and it will be done properly and if that investigation shows what I believe it shows then that's exactly what we'll be doing and we'll be doing it not within the 10-15 years that Michael Barnett was talking about - we'd want to do that quite quickly."

Mr Barnett also called on the candidates to get behind a congestion charge to tackle the city's traffic woes.

"They need to do something. I think a congestion charge is probably the quickest, easiest way."

Speaking after his launch, Mr Goff did not rule out introducing such a tax, but said it was something central government first needed to get behind.

"I think you can do that when you've got your plans right. But when you've also got alternative choices so you're not confronting people with the choice of, 'Your cost of coming into town will go ... but we haven't provided the alternative services."

First proper local election since 2010

Dr Andy Asquith from Massey University specialises in local government and is standing for the mayoralty in Palmerston North.

Putting on his academic hat, he described this year's Auckland mayoralty race as the first proper local election since Len Brown challenged John Banks nine years ago.

"In 2010 the turnout was over 50 percent and that was because there was a clear choice of high profile candidate. That's what we have this time.

"I would hope that the two main candidates will spark off interest to get people interested and get them motivated to vote."

Auckland Council will publish a full list of candidates running for the Auckland elections no later than Wednesday.

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