Phil Goff’s bunker mentality

James Bews-Hair comments on Phil Goff’s bunker mentality at NBR:

The negatives are rather more numerous, however; chief among them the way Mr Goff and his staff appear to be “hunkering down and circling the wagons.”

The mayor has neglected to “form a close team” with his elected councillors – and even risked alienating them in what Mr Bews-Hair views as a verging-on-paranoid overreaction to some robust finance committee debate, the aftermath of which saw some councillors summoned to the mayor’s office for a dressing down.  

“That’s not the way you do it,” he says.

“You’re only one vote around the table. You’re not running a caucus, you’re not the chief whip – you’re first among equals but they are your colleagues so you need to work with them, compromise a bit and keep them on board.

“It’s a different form of politics – it’s not partisan in nature, which means you don’t have the party lines to use as a framework for building relationships.”

Phil Goff claimed to be the Mayor for all of Auckland, he rather sneakily used blue on his billboards, and hid his Labour connections…but he is a life long Labour party member, probably still is and he has form in this regard. Goff will be throwing his weight around without realising he is actually the 97 pound weakling at the proverbial beach.

Mr Bews-Hair warns that “if he carries down his current path,” Mr Goff will “run into trouble around the table when things get tougher” – as they inevitably will during the “very taxing” nine-month Long Term Plan process.

He also suggests the mayor and his staff need to work on a more constructive way of engaging with the council organisation itself, “having isolated themselves quite a lot in the early days.”

He’s already started that process by letting Fran Mold leave. She was dreadful and loved shouting at councillors…most of whom just ignored her.

Although Mayor Brown’s office  “had its differences with the organisation – at times quite major – at the end of the day you need to work with them to get stuff done. And I think in the early days – and still a bit now – there’s a mindset of doing stuff out of the mayor’s office to a much greater extent than I think an office of that size can deliver.

“So rather than having a robust but close relationship with the council organisation, which is how you get them to do stuff for you, there’s almost been an us and them situation.”

Part of that is a hangover from Mr Goff’s campaign, during which he took aim at what he characterised as an inefficient and insufficiently accountable outfit – a tone Mr Bews-Hair says he was absolutely right to strike.

In that respect, he says, “he campaigned the way he needed to campaign.”

But Mr Goff also “over-campaigned, if anything, and perhaps overpromised and was too specific about what he was going to achieve. He didn’t need to, so he made a few rods for his own back.”

And now that he’s mayor, Mr Goff has to use the organisation to achieve his ends, because “you can’t just do it by yourself. It can be tough to make the organisation deliver but, alongside that, you have to work closely with them.

“It’s a 10,000 person organisation, while his office is up to around 20 now – it can’t hope to cover the amount of stuff that Auckland Council does; you need to be across a lot of stuff but not necessarily know enough to do it all yourself.”

If anyone knows it is James, he was inside Len Brown’s office and had to deal with a great deal both internally and externally…including dealing with the fallout of our Len Brown exclusive.

Phil Goff thought this job would be a doddle. He was after all in line to be PM and also a cabinet minister…but Council is vastly different from parliament as he is finding out. I suspect he isn’t enjoying his job.

He can fix it easily though…he could start by doing even a half decent job.




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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.