17 Jun 2016

Housing goes untouched at mayoral debate

7:50 pm on 17 June 2016

Auckland mayoral candidates have taken tentative pokes at each other in the first of their major encounters.

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, Mark Thomas and Vic Crone at their first debate, a business breakfast.

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, Mark Thomas and Vic Crone at their first debate, a business breakfast. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Mark Thomas criticised the past record of former cabinet ministers and business people in the office - while Phil Goff questioned the city's achievements in recent years.

But ideas in detail were largely absent. Housing got barely a mention, with more time spent on moving the port and a downtown stadium, with Mr Thomas alone in opposing both.

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, Mark Thomas and Vic Crone at their first debate, a business breakfast.

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

The pair, and fellow candidate Victoria Crone, were speaking at the Auckland Mayoral Debate Breakfast organised by Heart of the City and the Employers and Manufacturers' Association today.

Mr Goff, a former Labour cabinet minister, argued his strength was being the only candidate who understood government, something he said would be crucial.

"I know the buttons you have to push and I know that if you lie down and you're passive, that central government will walk all over you. I don't intend to be a passive mayor and let central government walk over me," he said.

He also talked of his overseas trade work.

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, Mark Thomas and Vic Crone at their first debate, a business breakfast.

Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff speaks to gathered business leaders. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Mr Thomas has spent two terms on the council's second tier, a local board, and said he was the only one who knew how the council worked.

He took a poke at his rivals by referring to the backgrounds of past one-term mayors of Auckland City Christine Fletcher, John Banks, and Dick Hubbard.

"Two Cabinet ministers - lots of central government experience - crashed and burned, frankly, in their first terms as mayors," he said.

"We've also had a person with business experience but no knowledge of local government or politics, also an unhappy time when they were mayor."

Ms Crone reminded the business audience of her past role as a managing director of a software company.

"When I led Xero and I looked after 180 countries around the world, I see the pace of change happening on the global stage and we are simply not keeping up with it," she said.

All three argued the need for the Auckland Council to become more efficient and customer focused.

Auckland mayoral candidates Phil Goff, Mark Thomas and Vic Crone at their first debate, a business breakfast.

Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Ms Crone pointed to a new council survey, showing only 15 percent of respondents were satisfied with their council.

"And only 17 percent of the public trust the decisions the council are making. Auckland deserves a contest of ideas for this campaign, not a contest of name recognition."

Outside on the footpath one of the uninvited candidates, Penny Bright, was making a stand handing out flyers on her plans to make the council more transparent and reduce the use of consultants.

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