It’s a mighty thing to devote a life to politics, and Goff has finally decided to retire.
Auckland Council is no easy place to be a politician. It is by legislation 95% run by bureaucrats – even more so than Parliament. Phil Goff has run it for two terms.
With Efeso Collins the lefts’ main contender for Mayor, Phil Goff has a mixed but positive record.
I won’t cover his entire life in politics, just a few brief lines on his mayoralty.
His supported continuance of the massive City Rail Link project started by Mayor Len Brown will bear fruit in 2024-5, but the failure to accept the social and economic impact of the project led to a corrosion of social license about the project which has taken much to recover from.
He was quite reasonably angry when Auckland Transport blindsided him with the light rail project back in 2015, but his strong relationship with the Minister of Transport Michael Wood helped rescue the project from failure. Auckland’s public transport has become much more viable and for many more people.
He certainly led the full redevelopment of the entire waterfront from the Tamaki Drive rebuild, all the way to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which included massive dedicated cycleways and a completely transformed Wynyard Quarter, removal of the old oil storage facilities, and a brand new ferry terminal. The entire waterfront revival will likely be his strongest legacy as Mayor.
He oversaw the merger of two of the local authority entities, but struggled to command others into common purpose.
Eke Panuku continues just a small role in the development of Auckland, compared to Kainga Ora and Crown Infrastructure Partners. Panuku’s development of the waterfront and expansion of the CBD is good, but with apartments costing multiple millions it tends to be good for just the high end of town.
Council’s remaining housing for the elderly is essentially outsourced, and hasn’t grown much.
He took too long to get control of the out-of-control Ports of Auckland with multiple workplace fatalities, union busting, and a massive plan to expand the port into the harbour. But they are beginning to get it.
He also took too long to get control of Watercare again after a colossal failure of water storage and water supply investment. The major Watercare investment in Central Interceptor and other key wastewater investments will mean far fewer beaches spoiled. Watercare’s failure to take a role in conservation though its’ catchments contain 99% of Auckland’s remaining native species is a failure.
Watercare will now likely form the basis of New Zealand’s most powerful entity once the 3 Waters reforms go through. Watercare’s leadership is now suitably renewed, but it will be even more so a kingdom unto itself.
In his second term he was beset by bad luck including the fire that massively delayed the National Convention Centre, decreased competitors at the America’s Cup, high impact of COVID draining the Council’s finances and crippling the CBD, and the denting of political momentum through Labour’s housing policy woes.
However the city itself has boomed with increasingly intelligent master planning of large sites in the south, northwest and north, much higher housing density on arterials, far higher frequency of public transport services, huge new cycleways near completion, and a booming CBD population that reasserts Auckland as having a centre not just a multicell of malls. The council is far more horizontally integrated between consents, finance and infrastructure than it was.
Auckland is highly regarded reputationally by migrants and investors, is far better publicised overseas, is now better integrated with central government politically and with relevant Ministries, and continues its increased commercial and social dominance of New Zealand with nearly 38% of its total GDP and 33% of its population and rising. Council leadership of film and television production through screen facilities has been rewarded through the pandemic.
Those are not small things and they are signs of strong success.
I would expect that giving up politics and in particular the life-sucking intensity of the Mayoralty would be a difficult decision to make.
On record the overall success of Auckland over 6 years is his best measure.
As Mayor he continues to be a steady-as-she-goes operator keeping party politics tightly restrained and very few fights breaking out within council, and that is likely how he will finish up.