Auckland mayoral candidates debate equality, transport, climate change

9:41 pm on 2 September 2019

Auckland mayor Phil Goff has been cheered for - and then challenged on - his commitment to wage fairness and ending homelessness during a candidates' debate.

Mayoral candidates Phil Goff, left, and John Tamihere

Phil Goff and John Tamihere Photo: RNZ / Supplied

Mr Goff and his main rival for the job John Tamihere were joined by two lesser-known candidates Craig Lord and Jannaha Henry for tonight's debate hosted by Auckland University, AUT and Stuff.

The broad topics on the table were equality, transport and climate change.

On equality, Mr Goff drew cheers when he told the audience how the council had brought in a living wage for all staff under his leadership and would soon do the same for cleaning contractors.

That was quickly scoffed at by Mr Tamihere, who brought up the nearly $700,000-a-year salary of chief executive Stephen Town and the large number of council employees earning six-figure salaries.

"You can't pretend to look after the bottom end of town ... and allow ... that huge inequality all the way through the council," he said.

Ms Henry questioned why the mayor earned two-and-a-half times that of city councillors when they did similar jobs.

Mr Lord said there was little the mayor could do to address inequality in the city, saying he or she didn't decide the education curriculum or who was going to get a well-paid job.

"That's up to people to get their own good job and excel themselves. Do something with yourself, don't always expect a hand-up," he said.

Ms Henry, who is standing to increase youth engagement in politics, said the mayor should make themself present in Wellington and bang on some tables to influence decisions about wages and housing.

Mr Goff highlighted the work his council had done with Housing First towards measuring and ending homelessness.

Mr Tamihere said people only had to walk down Queen Street to see the problem was still there - and said he was doing much more through his work with Waipareira Trust.

Mr Lord appeared on shaky ground with the audience when asked whether climate change was real.

He drew jeers when he answered "well, the planet's climate is always changing" before finishing his sentence by acknowledging that people had an effect on it.

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