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The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Phil Goff


Transcript of the interview below. Video here.
Goff was shifty and was decidedly economical with the truth.

On Newshub Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Auckland Mayor Phil Goff 16/06/18
Lisa Owen: Nine out of nineteen councillors signed a letter expressing concern over a $930,000 stadium report. They say Mayor Phil Goff kept it from them. I sat down with Mr Goff and asked if he had heard of any issues before he received the letter.
Phil Goff: Well, first of all, it’s not a letter of no confidence. It doesn’t say no confidence anywhere, that’s the way it was portrayed when it was leaked to the media before I received it. Look, we have disagreements on Council. This disagreement’s not on a huge issue, actually. The same group of nine people – I think all of them supported my mayoral proposal for the ten-year budget the week before. And the ten-year budget is really important on Council. It’s our plans for what affects Aucklanders over the next decade.
Yeah. But a vote for the ten-year budget is not a vote of confidence in you; that is a vote for the people of Auckland and the budget. You said it is an isolated issue but they actually say in that letter this behaviour has not been isolated. And people have described you as bullying, chauvinistic, dismissive, and they say that you work by yourself behind closed doors. I want to give you the right to respond to that.
Yeah, well, none of those things are correct. Let me just correct on the budget – the budget of course is a vote of confidence.
Not in you though, Mr Mayor.
Well it’s my proposal so it is in me. But let’s come back to those other things. Look Lisa, I think you’re aware I’ve been in politics for a very long time. I’ve never been accused of bullying. It’s not part of my DNA. I don’t like bullying, I don’t tolerate bullying. Chauvinistic – I’ve never actually been accused of being a chauvinist either. I work well with people; I have over my entire political career. I work well across party-lines and I do so on council. And I think if you asked the overwhelming majority of councillors, they would not agree with comments of bullying or chauvinism.
So nine Councillors are all wrong about their concerns?
No, no, I don’t think those nine councillors— let’s keep this absolutely correct; those nine councillors aren’t accusing me of bullying. And indeed the one that was quoted as calling me a bully, I asked her to come in and talk to me, and she said she wasn’t referring to me at all. That was Councillor Chris Fletcher.
So are you absolutely confident in the way you are handling things?
Oh look, I always look at ways I can improve my performance and my interaction with people. If you don’t do that you’re not doing your job properly. You know, I do have an open door policy in my office. People are free to come and talk to me, discuss things with me. Will we always agree? Of course not, that’s the nature of human life and of politics. I don’t ask people to be clones of me. I simply ask that when we have the discussions and the debates we treat each other with mutual respect. And that’s really important if you want the council to operate as it ought.
Well, you’ve said that in particular one of your councillors you believe is leaking information which is why you couldn’t trust any of them with commercially sensitive documents or details.
No, no, no, that’s not true to say I couldn’t trust any of them. I trust overwhelmingly the majority of my councillors.
Then why didn’t you give them free access?
But they have. Look, every councillor has access to the full copy of that report in their office that they can read. So that’s really important to know, because I’ve seen it referred to a couple of times…
So, restricted to in their office, they’ve got this report and they can read it?
What I’m saying is I’m not sending out electronic copies of the report because too often in the past when I’ve sent something out that’s confidential, it’s been in the public arena within minutes. And that’s really sad. That lacks integrity to leak documents in that way. But I’m not saying I don’t trust my councillors with it. I’m just saying I’ve got information from third parties that is commercially sensitive and I’ve got an obligation to protect that information. And I’ve told them I’d protect that information. So there are restrictions on the edges, but not about the content.
That is a fair issue. But for example, Efeso Collins says, ‘The whole class is being punished for the behaviour of one of the naughty kids.’ So why don’t you address that person’s issues.
Well, I would if I knew and had evidence about the person that was leaking those documents. You may in the media because you received the leaks. But I don’t know who that is.
Mr Mayor, are you seriously saying you don’t know who that person is?
Oh look, if I had evidence of the person who leaked, then I would be confronting that person right now on it, and rightly so. But it’s not a case of punishing everybody else; it’s simply a case of taking reasonable precautions to protect sensitive commercial information that has been given to Council in confidence.
You see them as reasonable precautions. Obviously—
Oh, so does The Ombudsman, because he agrees with me.
Well, the complaint is current. There are two current complaints under way. So we can’t draw that conclusion just yet, Mr Goff. So, you do have an issue though, don’t you? You have an issue if this is being played out in the media. You have an issue.
Well, of course it’s played out in the media, because we are in politics and issues in politics are played out in the media. And I’m not resentful of that. I think there are other ways in which people can raise issues with me. I’m very comfortable with Councillors saying they’ve got a concern with this or that.
But the perception is that you are a mayor who has got a crisis on his hands now, that you’ve got dissent in your council, that people are leaking and you’re publicly dressing each other down.
Well let’s go over those things. For a start, as long as we’ve had an Auckland Council there’s been dissent. The 10-year budget last time went around with a majority of one. This one went through unanimously. This is not a council…
Still another vote to come on that one, isn’t there Mr Goff?
Yeah, there is another vote to come. And but, you know, I’ve worked collectively with Councillors to get a document that I think addresses the needs of Auckland, and they have worked collectively with me on it and agree. So I’m not expecting that councillors will vote against that document to make a political point. If they support the content of the document, $26 billion going into investment in infrastructure in Auckland in the next 10 years, and some really good things happening with improving the quality of the environment, I think Council is actually achieving some really good things and we’re doing it together.
All right, well let’s move on to something totally different. We’ve been talking about justice reform today and you are using prisoners or prisoners are involved in your million-tree scheme. What role do they play?
They propagate the seeds into seedlings, they grow the seedlings, and some of the people in community corrections are out there planting. And I really welcome that, and so too do the prisoners and the corrections system. This is giving prisoners really useful work, a way of repaying their debt to society, and we’re getting, probably, 500,000-600,000 seedlings free, not a charge to the ratepayer, they’re doing something for the community, and the community – we had 400 volunteers out yesterday with me planting trees, greening Auckland, making it more beautiful. And guess what? I announced that programme on your programme two years ago and we’re doing it. And we’ll plant, by the end of this year, 638,000 native trees across Auckland, making our city greener, more beautiful, absorbing carbon emissions, stopping erosion.
Well, on that point, how much will these trees reduce Auckland’s net carbon emissions?
Oh, I can’t give you the details on that. But a million trees are a million trees and they are permanent trees. They’re not to be logged; they are native trees and shrubs. And the idea was so attractive, apparently, that the government has picked it up and said, ‘Yes, we’re doing this right across the country.
But it is, I know you said there that you’re getting a bunch of free trees, obviously. It’s costing about a million dollars a year for three years, this programme. Do you reckon that is the best use of that ratepayer money given that people will look at this city and say, ‘It’s got so many problems; do we want to be spending that money on trees?
Well, let’s look at that in context. We need to do that. $1 million a year, I’ve just mentioned, that we’re spending $26 billion in the next 10 years on transport infrastructure to try to relieve congestion, on infrastructure for housing to deal with unaffordability and shortages, and for cleaning up our environment. $6 million, $7 million of that is going into making sure that our beaches are safe to swim on. That’s fundamental. And on in the issue of trees, overwhelmingly, councillors and the Auckland public have been incredibly positive about that. We had schools out yesterday. We have service clubs. We had ethnic groups. We had mana whenua — people coming together to say, “We could make a real difference to Auckland; we can make it a better place to live.” I think that’s fantastic.
We’re almost out of time, but I want to get through two other things very quickly. 10-year budget — you set aside $311 million for pest and disease control. How much do you reckon Kauri dieback is going to cost you as a council?
I’d be guessing, but I’d be saying that we’re looking in the vicinity in the next few years of $10 million, $20 million at least. We can stop Kauri dieback I hope, because it’s not transmitted by the wind, which makes it hard to stop, like myrtle rust it’s transmitted by mud on boots. And that’s why we’re having to close off some areas. That’s why we’re upgrading the tracks. That’s why we’re putting in sanitary provisions. All of those things are important.
Could it cost you upwards of that $2 million?
Oh, look, it could well cost much more than that, yeah, but this is an iconic plant. Do we want to leave to our children, our grandchildren, Lisa, a city where people say, “Do you remember the old Kauri tree, you know, before they died out?” This is iconic. We have an obligation to protect and enhance that tree as a critical tree for our city and our country.
You’ve got a matter of seconds, I’m sorry, but Aucklanders have been hit by rates rises, regional fuel taxes in the Budget; are you making this city too expensive for people? Are you pricing people out of Auckland?
On your programme, I said I’d keep average general rate increases to 2.5 percent. I will over the three years. Compare that to Tauranga or Hamilton — equally great cities, like Auckland — their rate increases will be closer to 10 percent. Yes, there is a regional fuel tax. I promised that on your programme as well. I said to Aucklanders, “We want to decongest our city. We want a transport system that works for us as Aucklanders. Do we have to make a contribution towards that? Of course you do. And the Government is making an equal contribution. We’ll get $4.3 billion by leveraging off that 10 cents a litre with government subsidies, one-to-one subsidies, and development contributions. We will transform Auckland. That’s my job; that’s council’s job, and we’ll do it for Aucklanders.
Thanks for joining us this morning. I know you need to go and plant trees, so appreciate your time.
Thank you, Lisa. It’s a pleasure.
Transcript provided by Able.

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