Goff needs more than slogans and sound bites


If Goff aspires to run Auckland better than the incumbent Brown then he has to get his head around the fact that the city is run poorly and that merely talking up aspirational projects is not going to cut the mustard.

Auckland is a shambles and the problems are deeply rooted within a culture that has spread like a disease throughout local government.

It all starts with an attitude that local government knows best for our lives. It is followed by a sense of entitlement, a lack of compliance with the rule of law and finally a perverse drive to push the compact city model despite that it’s impossible to achieve.

 So far Goff hasn’t really said what he wants to do, and I suspect that’s because he really doesn’t know what the issues are. He probably thinks time is on his side – but it’s not. In order to do the job well Goff is going to need to hit the ground running. He needs to know precisely the issues, and be prepared to gamble on proposing strong reform of Auckland Council. There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth and he has to be brave enough to ignore those voices in favour of doing what is right for the silent majority.   

There are specific issues that require urgent attention so this is my list of the top 5 matters Goff needs to attend to, and the solutions as I see them:

1. Housing. The core of this issue is a simple planning matter about whether to let the city expand or to keep with the compact city model. The facts are that the evidence overwhelmingly proves that the compact city can’t be achieved. So drop the compact city in favour of building houses. If that means greenfield – then so be it.

2. Infrastructure. Council hasn’t charged the right costs for maintenance and future replacement to ratepayers. In part this is because it is spending too much money on other things like staff. Start by prioritising the basics of infrastructure and cut staff numbers to do that.

3. Consenting. The draconian planners are killing everyone’s will to live. Outsource planning to externals to make things faster and stop the planners getting in the way of progress.

4. Debt. Saddling future generations with today’s debt is only happening because Council won’t do what it should – overcome its operating costs by reducing staff numbers. Do the right thing.

5. Culture and attitude. Reminding staff they serve the public, educating them on the legal boundaries they must operate within and incentivising them to do the right thing must happen quickly. If that means getting rid of the poisonous staff then do it. Take a blowtorch to the place and show you mean business.

Aucklanders need to start hearing things like this from Phil. Not talk about the big projects he will spend up on. Not bumper sticker slogans. That was the problem we already had with Len and his merry men – spending big without a care about how it would be actually paid for and by whom.

It’s really easy to spend other people’s money. The real skill set is in managing the whole organisation to do the right things and then on balance providing the upside of the projects.

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