What are the qualities a new Mayor of Auckland needs to have?
I was asked this question at a meeting convened by Auckland’s Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association last week.
I believe that the answer begins with a vision of what our city needs to be.
Firstly, I want Auckland to be a place where talent and enterprise can thrive.
For decades young New Zealanders have left our country to find their future in places such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and beyond to cities like London.
We need Auckland to be the one international city that New Zealand has which can retain talented Kiwis here and attract the best and brightest migrants from overseas.
Accounting firm KPMG has done a study entitled ‘Magnet Cities.’
It describes how 400 cities around the world with a population of more than a million people compete for the best talent, which is extremely mobile, and for companies that can drive national economies.
It argues that Auckland must become a city brimming with innovative ideas, with attractive infrastructure and a buzzing culture.
Auckland has to be a city which attracts educated, ambitious and energetic young people who will create wealth.
Our city also needs to be an inclusive place which welcomes diverse cultures.
We are one of the most multicultural cities in the world and we benefit from the richness this creates.
It is great to see tens of thousands of Aucklanders each year celebrating Diwali, the Lantern Festival, Eid and Pasifika.
Auckland also needs to be inclusive in ensuring all our young people can achieve to their potential and to avoid a city divided into gated communities and areas of deep disadvantage.
We need to be a city that protects and sustains our stunning natural environment, creates a built environment to match this and retains the important parts of our heritage.
As well as having a vision, Auckland needs a mayor who has the personal qualities which Aucklanders respect. It’s about integrity and commitment to service rather than the arrogance and sense of entitlement that too often goes with politics. The demands of the mayoralty are high and a new mayor needs a strong work ethic and a readiness to routinely work an 80-hour week.
The mayor needs to be collaborative and to make the effort to work with and bring together others around the drive to create what Auckland needs.
Auckland wants a Council that works together rather than being disunited and embroiled in petty politics. It wants a mayor who can deal collaboratively with central government, but who will advocate strongly for the City and can command respect.
Experience also counts.
The Mayor is not the manager of the Council, responsible for day to day operational matters. That is the role of the Chief Executive.
The Mayor’s role, like that of a Cabinet Minister, is to exercise governance.
He or she sets the strategic direction of Council and the outcomes which the Chief Executive Officer is required to achieve.
Experience in running major departments or ministries, of setting and living within budgets, of problem solving and learning to do more with less is a real advantage.
Communication is a critical skill. When only 15% of Aucklanders have confidence in how the council is currently operating, that shows both dissatisfaction with what Council is doing and a failure to communicate what it actually has achieved.
These are the skills I believe the electors will be looking for in a new Mayor as well as evidence of proven competency in providing professional and strong governance that can take our City forward.
Phil Goff is a candidate for Auckland Mayoralty.