Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

What Exactly Is Innovation?

Innovation isn’t a 20th century thing. We had innovation peaks in the mid 1600’s and the late 1700’s, although it’s true we may have used different terms back then. In Singapore, a review of the Straits Times newspaper shows a steady increase in the word from 1985 once computers became more widespread and a decided uptake from 2005 as social, digital forces launched. Professor Jane Jacobs has unearthed this information…

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Tri-partite Economic Summit in Guangzhou

I attended the third economic summit of the Auckland-Guangzhou-Los Angeles partnership in Guangzhou, having also been at the Auckland event last year. Unfortunately LA Mayor Garcetti couldn’t be there, but I met the Homeland Security Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell. The summit’s focus was on entertainment, urban design, education and health. The LA delegation numbers may have been modest, but Auckland sent 97 and there were more than 400 from the…

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Sizing Up Shenzhen

The impressive architecture of Shenzhen in southern China is both a testament to what Deng Xiaopeng achieved with his economic experiment but also a pointer to the challenges ahead. Shenzhen has delivered in spades on Mr Deng’s original dream but, having toured the central city and then having visited the City Museum, the challenge now is to update city planning to respond more effectively to changing people movement priorities. Despite…

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How Long Does It Take To Grow A Carpark?

The Port of Auckland has announced it wants to build a “designed” car park and put a public park on top. This is in response to the wharves-full-of-cars issue that has dedevilled Auckland’s waterfront. I think it’s a great option, but it’s a shame it took this length of time to get to it. Cities such as Copenhagen and Singapore have been doing this for a wee while.   Plans…

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Devoted To Deng

Such is the significance that Chinese transformational leader Deng Xiaopeng has had, all the Presidents who succeed him have to come to this giant billboard and bow before it. It’s located in Shenzhen, in south-eastern China, in between Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Deng really opened China to the world via the Special Economic zone he created in this area in 1980 – giving birth to a market economy. Back then, Shenzhen…

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A Lot Of The World In China

14 European countries could fit in just 14 of China’s 31 megacities. We know China is enormous, but these graphics help put a bit more context on the size. If we consider the Chinese megaregions, this context becomes even more sharply drawn. Australia with its $US1.2 trillion economy is only 5% bigger than the Beijing megaregion. The teaming sub-continent of India? Only 4% bigger than the Yangtze megaregion. And, most of…

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Transport Plan Just a Pipe Dream

(This article was original to produced in April 2016). Auckland parents and care-givers on school holiday duty looking at the coloured squiggly lines on the just released 30 year Rapid Transport Plan may have wondered who left the lid off the pencil jar. And where the piggy banks are that will pay for it. Aucklanders on the daily commute will be fuming as they sit in the morning traffic jam…

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What’s the World Bank Good For?

This is the question Professor Ravi Kanbur poses in a talk this week. The World Bank alumuni and economist spoke about how all has actually not been well at the WB  for a while now. There has been both mission creep and internal criticism of a lack of mission. WB shareholders have failed to provide capital increases as other funds such as IMF have achieved. This is clear recognition of…

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A lot to be said for starting early

Singapore  installed Christmas lights in its main shopping street more than a week ago, well before the New Zealand Labour weekend. This week, I got my reminder there are only 5 days to go to purchase Super Early Bird tickets for Singapore’s Formula 1. Only 11 months away in September next year. As debate raged again in Auckland this week on the new government and the Auckland mayor’s plans to…

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Planning New Places For People

The new exhibition just opened at the Urban Redevelopment Authority charts some big changes to urban developments in Singapore. In Our Neighbourhoods: A Look Into The Future, there is a strong focus on the anticipated car-lite future, replacing existing infrastructure with greener elements, more mixed aged, networked spaces and also on how to deal with waste. Centralised vacuum waste collection systems are present in some European countries now, and are…

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New Zealand’s Digital Effectiveness Needs Rewiring

New Zealand is stronger in the traditionally softer elements of digital effectiveness assessment, but needs to strengthen its economic and innovation dimensions. So are the findings in the latest international analysis examining the five digital leading countries digital progress. The Massachusetts-based Tufts Reserach University has looked at how the Digial 5 countries are assessed against a series of smart city benchmarks. New Zealand leads the country grouping in the areas…

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Digital Evolution: The Developing Challenges

Bolivia, China, Kenya, Malaysia and Russia have the largest digital evolution rates say Tufts University in their latest Digital Evolution Index. Almost all these developing countries are currently below average with their overall Index score, but their growth rates , if maintained, together with softer growth in the leaders may see big changes. Singapore and New Zealand are the ‘Stand Out’ quadrant leaders, but slower recent growth threatens this. Larger…

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Trade In the Age of Trump

The World Bank has been challenged to reexamine the evidence on the benefits of trade. So said Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Director of the World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness Unit, and a former Trade Minister in Costa Rico, in an address in Singapore recently. She made a robust defence of the benefits of global trade eg. Poverty in Vietnam was 64% poverty in 1993, it 3% today –…

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Can Citizens Construct Communities?

Can the people who live in communities actually, meaningfully help design them? This was the intriguing workshop I participated in this week at the Future Cities Laboratory, based at Singapore’s National University, in the Create Tower, of course! Ten of us joined Dr Johannes Mueller to test-drive his Quick Urban Analysis Kit (Qua-Kit). It’s designed to deal with the age old problem of how communities can better get to grips…

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South-East Asia: the world’s most migratory place

The countries in south-east Asia, often referred to as the 10 block ASEAN group, have seen more people move for work between each other than anywhere else on earth in the last 20 years. This was the finding from the World Bank’s ‘Migrating to Opportunity’ report released in Singapore this week. Although ASEAN’s migrant populations are numerically smaller than other parts of the world, their rate of inter-country movement has…

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Counting Climate Costs

The cost of climate change is the biggest externality facing the world economy said Andreas Dombret, a member of the German central bank this week, at an address in Singapore. He said said insured losses resulting from adverse climate events have tripled in the last 30 years, with the actual costs much higher because not all events can be claimed. He thinks that Paris climate long-term goal of keeping the…

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Estonia’s E-stonishments

A country with a population just a big larger than New Zealand’s South Island and a size less than three times that is one of the world’s most digitally advanced societies. The immediate past Prime Minister of Estonia, and current parliamentary Vice President Taavi Roivas, presented this week on some of the progress E-Estonia has made. This remote, small country in Northern Europe became, in 2005, the first nation to…

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You Shall Not (Get A Free) Pass

(This article was written in October 2016). Reports of dodgy building practices on a development in Albany have some calling into question the recent Rules Reduction Taskforce report’s suggestion that New Zealand should work towards builder self-certification. If that was all the report said, such criticisms might be fair, but actually our headline recommendation in this area was: Get serious about lifting the skills of the building sector. For all…

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Guangzhou Transport Transformation

You may not be able to access google, Facebook or Twitter in Guangzhou, China but their 12,000 buses, 10 metro lines, and 830,000 shared bikes will keep you busy. I spent four days in China’s 3rd largest city hosted by its transport authority. I visited Guangzhou 25 years ago and it’s unrecognisable today. Apart from the buildings, they have transformed their transport scene. Those 10 metro lines didn’t exist 21…

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Smart Cities: The Solution To City Concerns?

“Smart cities may have the potential to address big city development pains said Professor Lily Kong from the Singapore Management University as she delivered the annual Shirin Fozdar lecture. The lecture is named after a famous Singapore women’s rights activist. She reviewed the well known city growth story which already sees 82% of North America and 73% of Europe urbanised. This pace will increase in the so called developing world and…

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Future Cities: Transport Technology

A global review of future transport issues present at the Future of Cities conference has lighted both the key challenges confronting transport as well as expected new technologies. The studies cover China, the USA, parts of Europe as well as general megacities. It even included a New Zealand study. Some of the challenges include uncertainly about the future energy mix and what price it will be provided at, climate change…

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Future of Cities: Digital Disruption

Where does change come from? That was one of the concluding sessions at the Future of Cities conference run by the Centre for Innovative Cities here in Singapore. The presenter commented that so-called traditional experts are already a diminishing force for change when it comes to digital disruption. His model highlighted that although the impact of experts will itself be extended by technology and also by increased self-clustering, this will…

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Future of Cities: Singapore’s New Faces

Big changes have taken place not just in the Singapore physical and economic environment in the last 25 years. The city-state’s population has undergone a dramatic change too. Only 61% of the 5.7 million people who live in Singapore are citizens, down from 86% in 1990. This puts Singapore with among the highest levels of immigrants in the world, certainly for a somewhat larger country. The UN puts the immigrant…

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Future of Cities: More Workers Needed

An ageing workforce is an issue in all economies, however the challenge is particularly acute in Singapore as current population trends mean the city state will struggle to acquire the skills it needs just from its own citizen population. In 2012, two Singaporeans entered the workforce for every one leaving. But by 2030, it’s estimated that will have more than halved with less than one entering for every one exiting….

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Future of Cities: Innovation

The Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities recent Future of Cities conference was a stimulating review of emerging cities trends and likely future opportunities. The discussion on Singapore’s innovation highlighted the integration of social instutions.   The model Dr John Powers discussed covered the four stages of evaluation he observes which play a key role in Singapore achieving one of the highest levels of innovation output in the world.

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Making Our Own Luck

Fourty years ago, New Zealand icon the late John Clarke wrote the song “We don’t know how lucky we are” about New Zealand’s innate sense of optimism and tenacity. That spirit has seen the country lead the world in endeavours as diverse as atom splitting, rugby, movie making and sailing. But it’s not enough. We’ve been overtaken by countries more focussed on growth, and we lag the world in a…

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Footpath Screens Cover The Problem

On Orchard Road in the heart of Singapore, extensive screens are in place to shield pedestrians from the traffic. The screens are a perfectly pleasant mix of transparent, designed glass and a great mix of trees and other greenery. The footpaths are enormous – several metres wide – but so is the road. A one way corridor with up five lanes in part, including a usually busy busway. So, Singapore…

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Raving About Resilience

I was interviewed this week following a Centre for Liveable Cities presentation on resilience. I spoke about the importance of building sensible but adaptable plans – something we have all too much experience about in New Zealand. We also had speakers from Australia, India and the United Kingdom. We heard that last year’s United Nation’s Habitat 3 conference had made progress with the New Urban Agenda agreed, where global standards…

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Singapore ‘Mixes Its Uses’ Very Well

Like to have a cafe right next to your apartment building? What about a few other service businesses: a small grocer, a news agent, a hair dresser? Such is the life in many HBD apartment buildings in Singapore. These government managed Housing and Development Board accomodation blocks make up housing for an astonishing 82% of the Singapore population. Few counties on earth have such an extensive and successful public/private housing programme…

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A Real Smart City, Being Disrupted & Staying Connected

It was good to meet with Commissioner Lee, Head of the Incheon Free Economic Zone, at the start of the third day of the New Cities Summit in Songdo, part of Incheon in South Korea. He outlined the significant progress his global smart city had made. We then had presentations on the impact disrupters are having and heard from two start-ups: a mobility business and a green city company which…

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Meeting Mayors & Seeing Things Differently In Songdo

An absorbing second day at the New Cities Summit – Thriving Cities – seeing a range of new things, and seeing some things differently! Apart from stimulating content, it’s been terrific to meet mayors from cities around the world as diverse as Bethlehem in the Middle East and  West Sacramento in California.   We discussed the prospect of crowdsourcing fixing the democracy deficit in many cities, with start up UK…

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Visiting Thriving Cities In South Korea

It’s been fascinating to spend the first day in Songdo, the smart city of the future which is part of the Incheon metropolis in South Korea – just south of Seoul. I’ve been invited to participate in the New Cities Summit on Thriving Cities. We spent half a day touring the “greenest” building in Asia (called the Green Building!)… as well as an innovative global university project… and, we visited…

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Kiwi Smarts leads the Pack

New Zealand has a growing collection of ‘Smart Cities’ going by IDC Asia Pacific’s finalist list in its 2017 Smart City Awards. Having led the pack with three winners in 2016, kiwi companies are second only to China with six finalist nominations in this year’s awards. Of course on a GDP basis, New Zealand would easily top the table. New Zealand’s six finalists also cover the country. They include Auckland,…

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Singapore Worse Than Syria?

So Singapore has worse political participation than Russia, Syria, almost all of Africa or 181 other countries around the world. This was the surprising finding when I attended the Asia launch of the Commonwealth Secretariats’s Global Youth Development Index 2016. Only China and Algeria were worse than Singapore (North Korea was not included). The report is here with the rankings beginning from page 132. In the other four areas of…

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How to get smart

The impact that Singapore has with its government-led digital focus was clear to see at the start of the Innovest Unbound conference as the Senior Minister for Communication and Information opened the show. It also underpins the reason why Singapore was the world’s top smart City in 2016 according to UK based research house Juniper Research. The Smart Nation office was former by Prime Minister Lee in 2014. It’s role…

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Boosting the innovation-tech bound

The two day innovation and technology festival I attended recently show-cased the small, medium and large of innovation and tech developments underway in Singapore and more widely. Innovest Unbound is a global franchise operating annually in a range of big cities which simultaneously highlights new trends and developments, offers coaching sessions for both new and experience practitioners and provides a platform for start-ups and entrepreneurs to connect with corporates and…

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Start Planning Earlier

Young people can often be disengaged from planning debates, so this year’s Urban Planning Festival in Singapore had a big focus on addressing this. But in addition to the usual workshops, information sessions and tours, the Festival also invited high school ‘emerging planners’ to actually design and model new sustainable developments. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is showcasing some of the results this month. The students have produced a range of…

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Delivering Density And Holding Onto Heritage

Singapore is one of the densest cities in Asia. Yet among the legion of skyscrapers, many of which of course provide housing to its 5.7million inhabitants, are great examples of low rise and heritage buildings which have been preserved. There are exceptions, but generally the low rise sits side-by-side with the high rise. And it works. There’s less of the wall-to-wall skyscrapers that you see in New York. Singapore has…

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A VUCA World Demands Much More Of Bureaucrats

Bureaucrats need to deal better with today’s “turbulent (political) authority” and be more ingenious. And they must develop greater entrepreneurialism and awareness of the forces of innovation if they are to cope with today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world. These findings have been captured in Associate Professor Zeger van der Wal’s new book The 21st Century Public Manager whose launched I attended at the Lee Kuan Yew School of…

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Driving The Behaviour You Want

Uber has been in the news again regarding the psychological practices it embeds in its operating system to drive its growth. The New York Times outlines the activity here. But in a recent talk at Singapore Management University, Dr Peter Todd from Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin spoke about the implications of what he called this kind of “search behaviour”. He didn’t refer specifically to Uber in his talk,…

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Green Growth

Green buildings, literally, often stand-out while travelling around central Singapore. The Green City Index ranks Singapore as the greenest city in Asia, despite it being one of the most highly urbanised. There are obvious aesthetic benefits – particularly when the plants screen a car park as in the feature image. But there are obvious energy usage, health and wider amenity benefits. So to manage Singapore’s growth, its planning requires new…

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Tamaki Drive Compromise Still Waiting Mayoral Leadership

East & Bays Courier has done a terrific job with this video story on the Tamaki Drive ‘compromise’. Well done to reporter Mary Fiona Fitzgerald. The first Orakei Local Board led a plan to solve this which then Mayor Len Brown co-signed with us at the start of 2013. The Tamaki Drive Masterplan could fix this compromise and other challenges with this beautiful part of Auckland. However, four years on…

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Make The Future: Singapore

I attended the opening of Make the Future Singapore yesterday. It’s a very impressive (corporate marketing) programme run by Shell, to highlight new and emerging energy savying/transforming initiatives. It combines business seminars with some great interactive elements for the large number of school kids they were also catering for. My favourites? Using footsteps to power lights, and turning coffee grind waste into biofuel for building heating. Only downside was the…

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Social Housing Pressures In London

Emeritus Professor Chris Hamnett presented a history of the rise and fall of social housing in London over the last 140 years to the Centre for Liveable Cities recently. The grim, Dickensian doss houses were replaced at the turn of the century and subsequently. But Thatcher’s famous right-to-buy housing programme together with subsequent government funding cut backs and public estate sales to the private sector has seen social housing decline markedly….

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Future Economy At Heart Of New Central Plan

The Singapore Government’s Committee on the Future Economy report is driving the country’s next phase of growth. This government led central planning is undertaken/updated every 5-6 years and provides a very strong and quite focussed plan for government, business and the wider Singapore community. Seven key strategies underpin the report and they were immediately incorporated into the annual budget presented in Parliament the following week. Digital and enterprise capabilities, strengthening…

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Unintended Consequences

I attended a fascinating conference recently on “Unintended Consequences” run by Singapore Management University which, among other things, looked at what’s made Singapore successful but what now needs to change. A robust legal and business framework, strong sources of humans capital and high quality technical infrastructure had all contributed to Singapore’s economic success and potential for greater innovation. However greater risk taking, embedding an innovative culture and securing new market…

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Urban Housing Innovations

Like to live in the Sky? This presentation recently at the Centre for Liveable Cities shows how it can be done. The Skyville@Dawson apartment complex in central Singapore is a newer social housing approach with extensive community living spaces designed to avoid traditional apartment dwelling isolation.   We also had a look at the new Kampung Admiralty mixed use development which is under construction. Built under a park, it will…

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Singapore’s Big Plans

Singapore is world famous for its planning.   BIG PLANNING! The City Museum showcases some of this, and is housed in the (internally landscaped!) Urban Redevelopment Authority Centre where the Centre for Liveable Cities is based.   Singapore is only one tenth the size of Melbourne, but they’ve done more than ten times the development! The museum does a good job of providing an overview of some of the big…

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Goff’s Timid Budget: What about the crises?

You wouldn’t know Auckland was in the middle of a housing and transport crisis looking at new Mayor Phil Goff’s first budget proposal. There is no big push to cut council waste and inefficiency and redirect that into new houses and better transport. Instead, he delivers three new taxes, reduces waste services in some areas and excludes Aucklanders from commenting on his planned efficiency cuts. His key campaign promise was…

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Big Governance Changes Suggested, But How Likely?

After 6 years of Auckland Council, a comprehensive and generally very encouraging Governance Review has been undertaken of Auckland Council. But actually making the significant changes it recommends will be very challenging. The 164 page document has been prepared by an independent consultant (paid by council) and involved extensive discussion with both elected members and a range of external stakeholders. Although the report talks about what it calls “a number…

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Library Closure Reinforces Confusion

Libraries have never been in control of Auckland Council’s local boards despite their capital and core operating budgets sitting within local board budgets. So at one level, the decision by staff to close 31 libraries over the core Christmas/New Year period was unsurprising. But the problem was that local boards have been “given” the delegation by the Governing Body for the “use of local libraries”, which includes the hours. Of course the Governing Body can impose…

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Report Concludes Advisory Panel Model Ineffective, Inefficient

Auckland Council is proposing to continue with the current Advisory Panel model which a 100 page review says has been neither effective nor efficient. The review said the panel model was not meeting its potential to effect change. It was also critical of council for the lack of ongoing evaluation and monitoring. Yet despite recommendations that a new panel structure is established, officers are recommending to Thursday’s council meeting that a tinkered…

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Goff’s First Three Weeks: An Uncertain Start

Phil Goff will give his inaugural address as Mayor of Auckland when he is sworn in tonight. Having listened to him speak more than 60 times during the mayoral campaign, I have a good sense of what he is going to say. He will be keen to move on from an uncertain first three weeks start as the new Mayor of Auckland. He will say Auckland is a fabulous place,…

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Local Board Leadership Shake-Up Underway

7 of Auckland’s local board’s have been established and 6 of them have new Chairs. I went to 3 of their inaugural ceremonies. Rodney in the north of the region met in Puhoi and my former Orakei ward colleague Cameron Brewer was sworn in as a Rodney Local Board member. The Rodney First ticket, which secured a 5/4 majority on the board, replaced former Chair Brenda Steele with Warkworth representative Beth…

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Lifewise Leading Housing First Homeless Plan

I toured the project office this week that Lifewise has set up to design a Housing First programme for Auckland. Housing First is a complex internationally regarded programme to solve chronic homelessness which, needless to say, starts with providing housing and then integrating “wrap-around” needed support services. There are a lot of agencies involved, including potentially significant government funding. However the programme aims to house just 60 of the 200…

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New Council Structure Fails Housing And Transport

Mayor-elect Phil Goff’s just announced new council committee structure won’t effectively deal with Auckland’s housing and transport crisis and key councillors have missed out on roles. Both of these critical portfolios have been reduced to “bullet points” inside the unwieldy Planning Committee which now contains fourteen other areas. This committee now includes the significant Unitary Plan, Panuku Development Auckland, Watercare and Infrastructure portfolios which were part of 3 specialised committees…

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What Is Next?

I attended the launch of the Salvation Army’s research into New Zealand’s high level’s of youth unemployment this week titled: What’s Next? with a graphic inspired by English graffiti artist Banksy.  75,000 people between the ages of 15-24 are NEET: not engaged in education, employment and training. It’s a thoughtful pieced of work and although their recommendation about reducing immigration got the predictable media attention, their central argument is that…

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Goff Promise: Not One More Metre

On the mayoral campaign trail, Phil Goff repeatedly promised not-on-more metre of port expansion would take place if he was Mayor. He may not have been thinking about the latest walkway plans, but it’s an expansion never-the-less. He promised to sack council company directors if they proceeded. Will he make good on at least one of his promises? Welcome to local government, Phil.

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Festival Fun

The Otahuhu Food Festival was a lot of fun, despite the occasion rain shower!. A huge crowd turned out to sample just a vast array of food on offer. Earlier in the week, the annual Diwali Festival opened in Aotea Square. This is always a very colourful occasion, full of dance, music and food too. I also helped out collecting for the annual Breast Cancer appeal.

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World Homeless Day

It was an ironically grim day (cold and wet) on Monday, when I attended the acknowledgement of World Homeless Day in Aotea Square. I spoke to the gathering about how there is more council should be doing to help. My ideas were printed by the NZ Herald during the mayoral campaign.

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It’s Been Quite A Ride

It’s been quite a ride this year. I’d like to thank the thousands of Aucklanders I’ve met, debated/argued with and tried to help. Thank you for your warmth, good humour and the occasional whack around the back of the head. Running for mayor of Auckland is almost as much a privilege as the job itself. From Waiuku to Te Hana, from Piha to Great Barrier and everywhere in between –…

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There’s Still Time To Vote

Auckland’s voter turnout remains low. Only 35.2% have voted with one day to go. You can still vote until midday Saturday 8 October by just popping into a local library. 22,500 did just this three years ago. A list of where your closest library is, is at the bottom of this link.

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The Last Debate (after 67 of them)

Todd Niall from Radio NZ covered the last of the Auckland mayoral debates this week. I’ve done 67 debates. Unusually, this one was much more narrowly focused than most on the issue of sport and recreation – the first time we had specifically addressed that issue. The debate wasn’t just about a couple of us putting pressure on Goff and me reminding everyone they could still vote for me! Aktive…

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Fixing Transport: Government Bailout Or Better Council Management?

Simon Maude has canvassed the leading mayoral candidates on how we would get Auckland moving. Labour MP Phil Goff’s answer to funding only involves asking the Government for more money. He doesn’t even have a plan B. My response is threefold: 1) Rewrite the council budget to move funding from lower priority areas into transport, and boost private sector funding. 2) Develop a more cost-effective mass transport system, in preference…

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Newstalk ZB: Drinking Times, Easter Trading, A New Stadium

Michael Sergel from Newstalk Zb has done a round of ‘hot issue’ surveys with the leading mayoral candidates in the final week. He asked what we thought of a new international cricket ground in Auckland. Phi Goff’s a fan despite having no funding plan or location agreed. I said we need to do a better job utilizing/potentially rationalizing the excess of stadia we currently have before sinking money (we don’t…

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Stuff: North Shore Issues Canvassed

As part of Fairfax’s local news coverage, the leading mayoral candidates were interviewed around the region in different locations. This included a Facebook Live chat followed up by a news story. This is the North Shore coverage where I outline some local priorities for the area. My opponents tended to focus on the Auckland generic issues.

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Chloe’s ‘Hope And Change’ Campaign: The choice between profile and protest.

In America this week we witnessed an astonishing US presidential debate between a politically experienced, policy rich, legacy candidate and one who is the antithesis of that. The later part of the Auckland mayoral race has seen the same thing. Millions of American’s are protesting what is wrong with their government by supporting Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. They did the same in 2008 when they supported Obama’s “hope…

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The Brown Parallel Universe Goff Will Likely Inherit

My mayoral opponent Phil Goff has no working knowledge of the parallel universe that exists at Auckland Council at times. He missed a big opportunity to experience it when he failed to attend either of the last meetings of the key CEO Review Committee meeting yesterday nor today ‘s Len Brown farewell Governing Body meeting. I am not aware he has ever been to key council committees, nor any of the 21…

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Goff All Talk No Action On Maori Seats

At a Waatea radio mayoral debate this week, I challenged Phil Goff on his preference for dedicated Maori seats as part of Auckland Council. Todd Niall from RNZ covered the initial story here. I said he will have the power if elected mayor to make it happen. But under pressure he said it can’t happen and he does what he usually does and blames the government. But that is not…

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Phil’s Requests For Government Hand-outs

The NZ Herald published some of the Auckland mayoral candidates policy ideas across five areas: Seniors, Families, Homeless, Ethnic and Motorists. Labour MP Phil Goff mentioned the word government five times – the most of any candidate. Four of the references relate to his insistence government pays for his plans. I mention the word government only twice, both in the Homeless area where the government plays a leading role. You read…

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Auckland Traffic Congestion Worse With Wrong Mayor

Auckland mayoral candidates presented at the Auckland Transport Infrastructure Forum. We were asked what we thought would have happened to traffic congestion by the end of our second terms. I said my aim was for an improvement, but realistically the best likely to be achieved was status quo. However I said it would be even worse if Phil Goff is mayor because it will take him longer to get to…

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NBR: No Funding Plan For Future Transport

The National Business Review has picked up my comment that none of Mr Goff’s planned funding measures of infrastructure bonds, a slice of GST or increasing council’s debt ceiling are highlighted in the join government/council one year alignment study just released. Simon Bridges, the Transport Minister, reinforced this with the NBR commenting that: “Phil Goff’s plan to introduce a petrol tax to pay for it will fall on deaf ears….

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nbr-transport

Transport Plans Kick In Pants For Goff

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the ATAP Recommendations are a kick in the pants for key parts of Phil Goff’s transport policy. “There will be no early move to his favoured light rail plan for the central isthmus and to the airport, and his request for a petrol tax has again been rejected.” “None of Goff’s favoured funding measures of infrastructure bonds, a slice of GST or increasing council’s…

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goff-whoops

Mark For Mayor: Phil Goff=More Of The Same

As voting started, we sent a clear message to Aucklanders what the consequences of a Phil Goff victory would be. You can watch here.

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more-of-same

Paul Henry: A Phil Goff Mayoralty Won’t Change A Thing

I told Paul Henry this week that if Phil Goff wins the Auckland mayoralty it won’t change a thing. I continue to campaign strongly for people to vote for me, but I am stating that if Aucklanders want a different result they need to get a lot more engaged. I know that’s hard because council has burnt off a lot of goodwill. You can watch the interview here.

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paul-henry-goff

Stuff: Transport Alignment Differences-Goff Has Cap Out

Stuff.co.nz contrasts the responses from myself and Labour MP Phil Goff to the Government/Council Auckland Transport Alignment Project release. I think that that private public partnerships could deliver quicker results. I also comment that rewrite of the Auckland Council budget will see the $113m transport budget cut reversed and a conversation with Aucklanders advanced about swapping existing assets to help plug the transport gaps earlier. Goff continues his strategy of putting the cap…

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beggin-cap

NZ Herald: Mark Thomas-Team Builder

The NZ Herald published my statement this week on what my vision for Auckland is and how I will achieve it (in 100 words!). The summarised my approach as that of a ‘team builder.’ I know what we need to do to get Auckland working better. My six years as part of Auckland Council combined with more than 20 years leading and working with very large businesses gives me a strong…

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nz-herald-mark-thomas-team-builder

NZ Herald: A Goff Mayoralty Won’t Fix Housing, Transport

The NZ Herald covered my announcement this week that, despite leading the polls, Phil Goff doesn’t have the plans, the insights or the Auckland Council experience to sort out Aucklanders key problems. I continue to campaign to encourage people to vote for me and will use the remaining three weeks to make people more aware of the risks of a Goff win.

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goff-question

NBR: I Won’t Withdraw Because I’m Not A Quitter

The NBR reports that despite requests for me to withdraw from the mayoral race, I won’t do that because it would breach faith with my supporters, I still believe strongly in the ideas I am standing for and I am not a quitter. Two public polls have shown Phil Goff with a large lead and if Aucklanders don’t act, they risk getting the 30-year Labour party veteran as the next…

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thomas-and-goff-nbr

A Goff Win Inevitable Unless Aucklanders Engage

This morning I announced that I have been asked to withdraw from the Auckland mayoral race – based on two other polls which also show Phil Goff with a considerable lead. I won’t withdraw because I am not a quitter and I won’t breach faith with the people across Auckland who are supporting me. But people have asked me to consider my position because they think, as I do, that…

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thomas-to-refocus

Indian Weekender: A Minister For Auckland Or A Mayor?

The Indian Weekender has profiled Phil Goff and I and two other Auckland mayoral candidates. They asked what our first 60 day plans were if elected mayor. My plans involve developing my draft budget, identifying savings of $35 million, starting to redirect funding into our delayed top transport and housing projects and beginning to rebuild confidence in council. Goff’s plan involves seeking meetings with the Minsters of Housing, Police and a government…

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indian-weekend

RNZ Mayor Debate: Housing, Transport

Radio NZ has edited the recent mayoral debate in which my AT Hop card made a star turn. You can look at what I and the other leading candidates said on housing and transport here.

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rnz-mayoral-debate-at

Local Government Magazine: The Theory Vs The Practice

Local Government New Zealand interviewed 4 of the 19 Auckland mayoral candidates for this month’s magazine. They asked what we thought the key issues were. I’ve focused on the practical steps local government can take to improve services, and also gain new funding streams for infrastructure. My main opponent Labour MP Phil Goff describes the council vs government stand-off but without telling us what he would do. You can read…

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local-government-nz

RNZ Mayoral Debate: The Full Monty

Radio New Zealand hosted an hour debate with the leading Auckland mayoral candidates at AUT. It may seem a long time to watch a mayoral debate, but it cracks along. You can watch the full video here.

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rnz-mayoral-debate-4

NBR: Council Love Bus Left High And Dry

The NBR has picked up my comments that unfortunately a low Auckland Council election turnout seems inevitable. I mention that council’s $1.2M ratepayer investment in a kombi van “Love Bus” to encourage younger people to vote is missing the mark. The article also quotes Auckland University researcher Weiyi Zhang’s work which says voting (or non-voting!) is habit forming. Someone who didn’t vote in 2013 is more likely not to vote this…

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nbr-love-bus

Manukau Courier: Turbo Charge Transport

The Manukau Courier interviewed me recently on Facebook Live. We talked about my council experience, the “turbo charging” I will bring to transport, my approach to transport, housing and south Auckland projects. You can read the on-line version of the story here.

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manukau-courier

Where is the Love?: Council Goodwill Turn Off A Voter Burn Off

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas thinks a low election turnout seems inevitable with only ten days until voting begins. Thomas says the low regard that Aucklanders hold council in is a key factor. “Auckland Council’s $1.2M “Show Your Love” campaign now seems bitterly ironic. The council’s ‘Love Bus”, a Kombi van which is part of the campaign to boost turnout, has been left high and dry by disinterested suitors.” A…

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Goodwill

Role Confusion: Minister of Housing or Mayor of Auckland?

In the race to be Mayor of Auckland, I think one of us is a bit confused about which role he is going for. Check this out.  

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Minister of Housing.

Thomas And Goff Head To Head

Labour MP Phil Goff and I have done a series of head to head mayoral debates this week. Although it’s often interesting to hear what other candidates say, the head-to-head debates let us get through a lot more material and present our very contrasting styles. We were both at accounting company William Buck’s regular internal update session in Ellerslie – talking about Auckland (and changing lives!). Then we headed out…

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Goff head to head 3

NZ Herald: Thomas – a more thoughtful and more specific set of ideas

Long serving former North Shore councillor Tony Holman criticized the leading Auckland mayoral candidates policies calling them “vague and glib”. Except mine, which he said were altogether a more thoughtful and more specific set of ideas (although he didn’t like everything!). You can read his opinion here.

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NZ Herald promises

NZ Herald: Candidate Information Banned At Living Wage Meeting

The NZ Herald has covered my concerns about the Living Wage organisers preventing mayoral candidates from handing out information at the mayoral debate this week. They claim to be non-partisan, but it was actually the most political crowd/meeting of the more than two dozen mayoral debates we have had. They also restricted what candidates to say. You weren’t allowed to refer to opponents. I did anyway because I believe in having…

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NZ Herald living wage

NBR: Living Wage Gives Fingers To Mayoral Candidates

NBR Radio interviewed me about the Living Wage organisers banning free-speech at their mayoral debate this week. I also made some comments about what I think about the “Living Wage” proposal. Sound quality is not the best, but you can listen here. The online story is here, but behind their paywall.

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NBR living wage

Stuff: A Combination Of Business And Council Experience

At a recent Howick Grey Power meeting mayoral candidates were asked to say what Auckland’s key issues are and why were best placed to be mayor. I focused on my combined council and business experience, but our responses in the local Eastern Courier article together make for interesting reading,  

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Grey Power pic

Stuff: A Credible Response To Homelessness

The leading Auckland mayoral candidates were asked what we would do to deal with homelessness at a recent debate. I wrote an article in the Herald in May outlining my approach which involves using vacant/surplus council property as a short-term shelter to help government and other support agencies provide the permanent help needed. Stuff picked up our responses from the debate. My Labour MP opponent Phil Goff suggested using the…

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Homeless

Stuff: Not An Effective Housing Plan

Fairfax has picked up my comment that Labour MP Phil Goff’s housing plan may be of some use if he was trying to be Minister of Housing but it is not an effective plan for the next Mayor of Auckland. The majority of his 13 housing ideas are government responsibilities. His 32 years in Wellington naturally has him mainly thinking of problems this way. I cover the problems with his…

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Not effective

Indian Newslink: Plan Houses Confusion

Newslink has picked up my comments on Labour MP Phil Goff’s new housing policy. He claims a plan for cheaper and quicker building consents, yet his plan is only for another ‘review’. He brings no experience or insight to this area. His plans are mainly a confusing mix of mainly government-led ideas. By contrast, I have a specific plan to improve consenting contained in the recommendations of the Rules Reduction…

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Newslink confusion housing

Goff Housing Plan Confused And Mistaken

Labour MP Phil Goff’s Auckland housing plan is confused and mistaken, and he will have no power as Mayor to implement the majority of it says Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. “Goff’s first mistake is to confuse land-banking and development delays. The two are often not related as land-bankers typically don’t apply for consents.” “His second mistake is wanting to introduce consenting time-limits. They already exist for both building and…

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Confused

Thomas Launches Local Power Policy

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas will establish new citizen veto powers by introducing binding referenda, move to greater on-line decision-making and dramatically boost Local Board powers. Unveiling his Local Democracy policy today, Thomas said Auckland Council was on life support. “Only 15% of Aucklanders are satisfied with council and just 17% trust it to make good decisions. If this was the real world, Auckland Council would have gone out of…

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Power to the people

NZ Herald: Only Mark Thomas Experienced

The NZ Herald’s editorial this week bemoaned the state of the Auckland mayoral race. It said the large number of candidates for the Auckland mayoralty (19) and the lack of clear identification wree both problems. It did comment that “local government experience would be a reasonable pre-requisite for mayor but only Mark Thomas appears to have had any.” And it mused: “Does a parliamentary veteran have the vigour, enthusiasm and panache…

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Experienced

Balancing The Books

Labour MP Phil Goff and I along with other opponents attended a mayoral debate in Howick last week. A key issue was who can do a better job ‘balancing council’s books’. I argued my 6 year’s of council experience combined with my 25 years experienced running and working with billion dollar businesses gave me the best chance. You can read the article here.  

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Howick balancing the books

Missing In Action

Labour MP Phil Goff missed two mayoral debates last week. One with Dominion Road business owners and the other with Auckland University Students. This is the first debate we have had with students – a key group to try and increase voting turnout from. This is because he is still working his taxpayer funded MP job. Four weeks out from voting, I think Aucklanders deserve mayoral candidates who are 100% committed…

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Missing in Action

Unitary Plan A Milestone But No Silver Bullet

Fairfax picked up my comment that although passage of the Unitary Plan is a significant milestone it’s no silver bullet. Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas said the plan’s passing was an important milestone but significant challenges remained. “Without the next Auckland Council boosting funding to transport and other housing-related infrastructure, and to improving consent processing times, not enough new affordable housing will be delivered quickly enough … The larger challenge is…

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No Silver bullet

Unitary Plan Milestone Significant But Affordability Challenge Remains

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says passage of Auckland’s Unitary Plan today is an important milestone but the significant challenges of delivering affordable houses, filling our infrastructure deficit and protecting character remain. Thomas was the only mayoral candidate who attended the four days of decision making. “Without the next Auckland Council boosting funding to transport and other housing-related infrastructure, and to improving consent processing times, not enough new affordable housing…

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Not over

The Nation Mayoral Debate

TV 3’s The National programme ran a mayoral debate on the weekend. It was a great opportunity to see which of us understand’s Auckland’s challenges best and who has the most credible solutions. You can judge for yourself! You can watch it here.

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The Nation debate

Affordable Housing, Better Infrastructure And Character Unitary Plan Priorities

Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the Unitary Plan may struggle to deliver the affordable housing the region needs, quickly enough. “We urgently need new housing, but that is not all the plan needs to deliver. He agrees with the Property Institute that the Recommended plan lacks balance. This new housing must be affordable, it needs to be well designed and as Aucklanders know only too well it has to be…

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Auckland Unitary Plan

Phil Goff and Len Brown: The Same Result

They say if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same result. Current Mayor Len Brown, promised a rates increase of 2.5% – and his Labour colleague Phil Goff is promising the same. He is likely making the same mistake Len did in not stressing that this would be the overall council rate increase, and not the residential rate. Given council has a current policy of reducing…

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Rates promise

Newstalk ZB: No Change Policies Announced

Newstalk ZB has covered my comments on Labour MP Phil Goff’s rates and spending promises which look like more of the same approach of the current Mayor. He is promising the same 2.5% rates increase which Mayor Len Brown famously broke in 2014 with his 10 year Long Term Plan budget. The Labour MP wants a regional petrol tax, infrastructure bonds, a congestion charge and a bigger Auckland share in the…

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Goff rivals

Goff Adopts “Len Brown” Rates Promise

Increased water charges, a ‘Len Brown’ rates promise and a change of Government are at the heart of Labour MP Phil Goff’s Auckland fiscal policy say mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. “Goff is critical of Watercare not paying a dividend and yet the only way this can be achieved is if water prices were to increase. This would be tough on many Aucklanders struggling to pay their bills.” “He is promising…

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NBR Goff policies

“Independent” Goff Launches Labour Auckland Council Campaign

Phil Goff’s claim that he’s an independent candidate for the Auckland mayoralty was shown to be untrue this week when he launched Labour’s south Auckland campaign for Auckland Council. It’s clear from taking such a high profile role in this launch and from his repeated criticism of the Government at the many mayoral candidates debates we have had, that if Aucklanders elect Goff as mayor we’ll have another leader of the opposition in…

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Goff Labour launch

North Shore Channel: A New Mayor For Auckland

North Shore’s Channel Magazine is running a profile on me this month. The article that we put together focuses the choice for a new Auckland mayor on a 30-year Labour party, central government veteran versus someone with broad business, Auckland Council and local political experience (that would be me ) You can read the online magazine story here at the bottom of the link on page 104.  

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Channel

Ponsonby News: Mark Thomas – A Good Story To Tell

The Ponsonby News has interviewed me for their August edition. It’s a great story highlighting some of what I’ve done, who I am and what I want to do if Aucklanders elect me their mayor. Author John Elliot says: It is hard to argue with Mark Thomas’ assertion that Auckland needs a new mayor who understands council and local politics. He says he thinks as mayor I would bring a balanced view…

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Ponsonby News

Thomas First Mayoral Candidate To Sign Rates Pledge

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas has announced he will sign the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance 2016 Ratepayer Protection Pledge. The pledge asks the next Mayor not to increase rates by more than 2% per annum. Thomas is the first Auckland mayoral candidate to do so and follows Phil Goff’s refusal. “I have agreed to sign the pledge with an important proviso. Under the rating policy I am proposing, I will give…

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Rates Pledge

Thomas vs Goff: Making Our Communities Safer

In Indian Newslink this week, I talk about the steps I’ll take as mayor of Auckland Council to better support our communities making them safer. There’s a series of tools council has, we just don’t use them effectively. Labour MP Phil Goff’s response is a bit more predictable. He blames the government and by extension the police. I think the next Mayor should focus more on the things they can directly…

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Goff and Thomas 3

RNZ Checkpoint: Mayoral Candidates Divided On Plan

Checkpoint interviewed Labour MP Phil Goff and myself on the Unitary Plan recommendations. He thinks they are what is needed, however I have concerns about whether they will deliver the affordable housing we need early. I’ve been involved with the unitary plan’s development for nearly four years. Its a complex document and to speak credibly about it, you have to be across much of the detail. You can listen to…

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Checkpoint Unitary Plan

NZ Herald: Gangbusters Approach To Housing

The NZ Herald reported my response that the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel seem to have been so frustrated at the rate of new houses being built in Auckland that they have been forced to take a ‘gangbusters’ approach with their recommendations. Their recommendations would expand the rural-urban boundary by 30 per cent, permitting 37,000 new homes in areas now zoned for rural use. The amount of single housing zoned in central…

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Herahd Unitary Plan

Radio NZ: Unitary Plan Takes A Hard Line

In my comments to Radio New Zealand on the Unitary Plan, I say that it’s the council itself that has caused many of the problems. My opponent Phil Goff says this is the Plan that’s needed, but I think it takes an unnecessarily hard line. We haven’t spent enough money on the transport and infrastructure that new housing needs, and we are still taking too long to process consents. We know…

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RNZ Unitary Plan

Newstalk ZB: Rocket Fuel Added To Unitary Plan

Newstalk ZB reports my comments that the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel just released recommendations will add ‘rocket fuel’ to the plan that was proposed by Auckland Council in 2013. I mention that very significant changes have been made including adopting most of the earlier residential out-of-scope proposals that Council rejected in February and abandoning the pre-1944 character protection overlay with no replacement provision. Auckland needs more affordable housing, more quickly…

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ZB Unitary Plan

NBR: Unitary Plan Delivers Growth At A Big Cost

I was the first mayoral candidate to comment on the Unitary Plan and the National Business Review has published my views that although there has been a big increase in potential housing development, the costs of this will be significant. The Hearings Panel has recommended a 22% reduction in the single house zone (the least intense residential zone) and a 25% increase in townhouses and apartments. It also proposes a 30% increase in…

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NBR Unitary plan

Unitary Plan Lacks Balance

Stuff.co.nz reports my Unitary Plan comments that the Hearings Panel recommendations appear to lack the balance. The recommendations represent a massive upzoning of wide parts of Auckland, a 30 per cent expansion of urban Auckland into rural areas and a reduction of character protection. We urgently need new housing growth in Auckland, but this needs to be balanced with affordability, character, rural living and other concerns. The recommended Unitary Plan…

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UP lacks balance

Unitary Plan Panel Delivers Growth At Big Cost

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas says the just released Unitary Plan recommendations will disappoint many looking for a balanced growth plan for Auckland. The recommendations represent a massive upzoning of wide parts of Auckland, a 30% expansion of urban Auckland into rural areas and a reduction of character protection Thomas was the only mayoral candidate present at the confidential briefing given to elected members this morning. “The Panel has added…

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Unitary Plan

New Unitary Plan If We Don’t Get The One We Need

We are three days from hearing the recommendations from the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel. I am optimistic that there will be much in the plan which will be good for Auckland and will help us fix legacy planning and growth restrictions. But the planning process has divided communities. We never really gave residents, businesses and other stakeholders the opportunity “to write” the Unitary Plan – as other cities around the…

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Unitary plan

Check Me Out

Len Brown and Phil Goff are similar. Both have no large, private sector experience. Both have never directly run complex organisations. In addition Phil has no experience of local government or Auckland Council. Fear not, help is at hand You can ‘check me out”  on our latest video here.

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Check me out

Goff No Answers On Housing

In the latest Auckland mayoral debate this week, I challenged Labour MP Phil Goff on his answer to a question about housing support for the homeless. He was sympathetic and of course criticised the government – but had no solutions. The NZ Herald picked this story up and highlighted that with all his central government experience, including being a Minister of Housing, he has no plan to solve Auckland’s housing…

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Goff and me wattle

To Move The Port Or Fix Transport & Housing?

The NZ Herald published my fourth opinion piece this week on how I will respond as Mayor to the recent “Consensus” Port Future Study report. The report does provide a view on future options, but it’s really not a consensus view. The Port of Tauranga, New Zealand’s largest export port, wasn’t directly involved for example and they contest some of the information (as they would you might say). This report…

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The port article

Rules Reduction Response A Template For New Mayor

The just released Government response to the Rules Reduction Taskforce I served on confirms our report will be a terrific template for me if I’m elected Mayor of Auckland. The Government has agreed with a key recommendation I wrote that we need to improve customer service within local and central government. The Fairfax story is here. The Taskforce was established by the government to solve people’s frustrations with local rules…

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Loopy

NZ Herald: Rapid Transport To Airport Takes Too Long

The NZ Herald has covered my comments on Auckland Transport’s recent decision to abandon a heavy rail option to the airport in response to Councillor Mike Lee’s advertising his objection. I said that it’s nuts that we don’t have a modern, fast way of getting to the airport and it’s taken too long to resolve. AT reports that light rail would cost $1 billion more than heavy but actually both…

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train or bus

Nominations Are Open

The early bird catches the worm! Nominations have just opened to be a member of Auckland Council. I have mine to be Auckland’s next mayor. If you’d like to join me as part of Auckland Council, you have 4 weeks to nominate.  

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Mark nomination

Urban Development Authority Similar to Special Development Areas

I spoke with Finance Minister Bill English this week about the Government’s urban authority plans to get housing built more quickly in Auckland. This approach is similar to the development area ideas I launched in May. Check my policy approach here.  

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Bill English

Goff Targets Migrants To Deal With Housing Crisis

In this week’s Indian Newslink, Labour’s mayoral candidate criticises the government around police numbers and he also targets migrants to deal with the Auckland housing crisis. This unfairly goes after people who aren’t to blame. In an interview with a Warkworth newspaper, the Labour MP said if he were mayor he would lobbying the government to reduce immigration to deal to the housing crisis. “But the just released Statistics New…

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Goff and Thomas 2

Key Decisions Missing From Council Pre-Election Report

Auckland Council has released its Pre-Election report as required by law. It’s intended to be an impartial outline of council’s progress and it summarises six key decision areas for the new mayor and council. But it focuses more on the “good news” that’s happened in the last 6 years and not the bad news. There’s no reference to the very low rated customer survey which saw only 17% of Aucklanders say they…

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What is missing

National/Labour’s Plans Won’t Solve Auckland’s Housing Crisis

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says neither National nor Labour’s responses to Auckland’s housing crisis will be enough, and 8 months since his launch Labour’s mayoral candidate Phil Goff still has no housing policy. The two-term Auckland Council member said the council itself is the biggest impediment holding back new housing. “Even if Auckland secured all of National’s $1 billion infrastructure fund, that would scarcely make a dent in the…

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Miss the mark

Catch-up With Prime Minister And Transport Minister

It was good to catch with the Prime Minister at the opening of the new Quay Street cycleway. Among other things, we spoke about how cycling is only part of his keeping healthy plan.   I talked again with the Transport Minister Simon Bridges too, who I have known for a long time. We’ve previously discussed the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and I thought the Quay Street project is a…

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Quay Street cycleway PM John Key

Thomas Calls Out Unitary Plan Public Relations Campaign

I uncovered this week that Auckland Council is spending $370,000 on a public relations campaign to influence the Unitary Plan process. The Herald reported my comments that to claim that an interview with just 15 people means ‘more Aucklanders agree with intensification for the city’s future growth under the Unitary Plan’ is a gross misrepresentation and irresponsible. You can read the story here.

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UP PR campaign

Thomas And Goff Lay Out Vision In Mahurangi

Coincidentially, Labour MP Phil Goff was in Warkworth last week at the same time as I was. There are many in this part of Auckland who have big problems with how the so-called Super City has treated them. So much so, that the northern part of the Rodney ward including Warkworth want to leave Auckland Council and have applied to the Local Government Commission to do so. We both spoke with locals about…

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Mark and Phil in Warkworth

Mayoral candidate on mission to encourage youth voting

I spoke at AUT recently about my three key priorities: affordability, transport and growth, but their blog has also done a story about my hope that we have more young people voting in this year’s election. Only around 25% of those under 30 vote in council elections. There are a bunch of reasons for this: less engaged in traditional politics, more preoccupied with study and career building and lower home…

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Youth vote

Don’t Spend A Cent Until/If We Have To

The NBR has profiled my response to the Port Future Study Report released last week. It mentions that I’m the only mayoral candidate who thinks moving the port is not a priority when Auckland is faced with billions of dollars of congestion and housing problems. I make the point that actually researching a new location properly will itself cost millions of dollars and we shouldn’t consider that until the triggers…

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NBR port

Newstalk: The Free Money Love In

Newstalk ZB has covered my response and my opponents to the government’s $1 billion housing infrastructure announcement. We’re all pretty positive, because who doesn’t like free money right? (Do I hear taxpayers in other parts of New Zealand grumbling…) We don’t yet know the detail of the strings attached, but I make the point we wouldn’t need this government “bailout” if Len Brown had been doing a more effective job getting council working…

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Housing loan welcome

Len Brown Challenged Over Government Housing Bailout

Auckland Council mayoral candidate and local board member Mark Thomas is challenging Mayor Len Brown to match the government’s commitment to unblocking house building in Auckland. “The government wouldn’t need to bail out Auckland if Len Brown had done a better job getting houses built in Auckland.” “Auckland is New Zealand’s fastest growing city and can expect to receive the bulk of the just announced $1 billion government infrastructure loan”….

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Houding bailout

Transport And Housing More Important Than Moving Port

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the Port Future Study findings mean the next Auckland Council can focus on its more immediate transport and housing priorities. “The 1 year, $1 million study both recommends a new port location is established while also acknowledging that the port may be able to accommodate long-term demand at the current site. The consultants mid-point for any possible port move is 2055, 40 years from…

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Priorities

Thomas Vs Goff On Fixing Auckland’s Transport

Labour MP Phil Goff and I go head to head again this week on our different approaches to fixing Auckland’s worsening transport system. Having been part of Auckland Council for nearly six years, I know there is more we can do ourselves to improve things. Goff’s approach is to ask the government to do more. He sounds more like he wants to be Transport Minister than Mayor of Auckland. You…

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Thomas Goff newslink

Other Priorities Before Moving The Port

The New Zealand Herald has reported on the imminent release of the Future Port Study. Unsurprisingly it looks like it concludes that the port can’t keep doing the same things, in the same way, on the same site – and that at some stage it will have to be moved. Even if all this is true, the Herald reports my comment that: “There were other priorities the council needed to…

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Extend the port

Phil Goff Likes The Same Movies As Len Brown

At a mayoral meet-the-candidates meeting last week, I discovered that Phil Goff and Len Brown have the same taste in (fantasy) movies. Check it out here.

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Phil Goff Movies

Is it a train? Is it a tram? Or is it a bus?

It’s nuts that we don’t have a modern, fast way of getting to the airport and it’s taken too long to resolve. This is an going part of our transport planning problem where we don’t involve users and stakeholders (the public, politicians and others) and partners (NZTA, Kiwirail, the private sector and other potential funders) effectively enough in developing and agreeing these priorities. My transport policy is designed to address…

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Trains, trams or buses

NewstalkZB: Mark Thomas “The Only Candidate” Says Kim Campbell, EMA

At the first of the combined Employers and Manufacturers Association and Heart of the City Mayoral debates, EMA chief executive Kim Campbell said Mark Thomas was the only candidate who presented a plan to untangle the complex web of council red tape businesses face. He has the solutions, Mr Campbell says. He went on to say that Phil Goff and Vic Crone have some way to go to really understanding the complexity…

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EMA debate

NBR Radio Interview: Urban Development Authority And Asset Swapping

NBR interviewed me online and also on NBR Radio earlier in the week on my response to the Prime Minister’s idea that an urban development authority may help get house building happening more quickly in Auckland. In the radio interview which you can listen to here, I talk about how the PM’s idea seems similar to the Special Development Area approach I have adopted in my growth policy outline. I also…

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NBR asset swap radio

Get Council’s Finances In Order Before Considering Tolling

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas is rejecting new road charges for Auckland until Auckland Council gets its financial house in order, and much needed transport improvements in the north, north-west and south of Auckland are confirmed. “Council debt has doubled since amalgamation in 2010 from $3.4 billion to $6.5 billion and ratepayers are still reeling from last year’s 9.9% residential rates increases.” “It is unreasonable to plan to hit Aucklanders…

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Sorted

Mayoral Debate: Phil Goff – Experienced In Raising The Cost Of Living

Twenty five years ago, I led a march on Parliament against the Cabinet Minister who first introduced fees for university students – breaking an election promise. This was of course Phil Goff, and I reminded him at a recent Mayoral debate that he has a long history raising the cost of living. I said Auckland ratepayers should bear that in mind when voting later this year!

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Goff Raising the cost of living

NZ Herald: Council Performance Worse Than 2013

The NZ Herald covered some of my comments on Auckland Council’s very low satisfaction and trust survey just released. It’s damning but unsurprising . It shows things have worsened since the last significant survey in 2013. “47% of Aucklanders don’t trust Auckland Council says the latest research and only 17% do.” “This represents a real failure for Len Brown and highlights the urgency of electing a new mayor who understands Aucklanders problems…

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Low trust

NBR: Auckland Council Trust Survey No Surprise

Auckland Council’s latest ‘citizen’ satisfaction survey shows only 17% of Aucklanders trust council to make the right decisions, and only 15% are satisfied with council’s performance. The NBR reports my comments that I’m not surprised. I also said they are unlikely to improve any time soon as, we’ve had similar surveys in 2012 and 2013, and the results today are actually worse. What we need is a new mayor who can focus…

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Bottom of barrel

NZ Herald: Mayoral Debate Contrasts Goff And Thomas

The first major Auckland mayoral debate was held this morning between the three leading candidates. The NZ Herald video does a great job of contrasting Phil Goff and me. Goff promises to complain louder and harder about what he thinks the government hasn’t done for Auckland. I am committing to sorting Auckland Council out and taking more responsibility for the transport and housing levers we control. The article also reports that “Mr…

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Mayoral debate EMA

TVNZ: Hundreds camp out in solidarity with Auckland’s homeless

The boys and I joined the “park up” last night in Mangere and slept in the car to show support for those homelessness in Auckland, and for me to discuss what I would do if elected Mayor. Ahryn and Reuben briefly ‘starred’ on the TVNZ coverage of the night, but for me it was a great opportunity to meet and speak with a range of people, including council colleague from…

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Homeless in Mangere

Thomas And Goff Clash On Housing

Phil Goff and I have gone head-to-head again in the latest Indian Newslink. With my five and half years experience on Auckland Council, I know there are things council can do better. My Labour opponent continues just to blame the government. Check out my solutions as Auckland’s next mayor here. And here you can check out Goff’s list of the problems for the government – as he sees them – but no…

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Goff and Thomas

90.6 FM: A Diverse Auckland

Wendy and I were interviewed by Chinese radio 90.6 FM recently. She covered the mandarin language aspects (!) and I covered the rest It was a great discussion about the changing face of Auckland and what kind of mayor we need to make the most of it. We’ve had a bit of media interest in what kind of a ‘mayoral couple’ we will be. Wendy has her own career with Deloitte…

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Chinese radio interview

Maori TV: Improving The Local Environment

I appeared on Maori TV’s Sunday programme talking about the work my local board does helping the community to improve the local environment. Together with Conservtation Volunteers, we organized a recent planting at the Madills Farm stream where around 80 locals turned out to help. Check it out, just after the 16 minute mark.

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Maori TV

Leading Mayoral Candidates Debate

The first of the major Auckland mayoral debates gets underway next week. Phil Goff and I will appear in the first of two debates organised by Auckland’s largest business associations. The Auckland Chamber of Commerce, the EMA and Heart of the City have banded together and the first of their series is a breakfast session MCed by broadcaster Mark Sainsbury. Please check here for further information.  

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Mayoral breakfasts

NewstalkZB: Thomas Vs Goff on National Policy Statement

NewstalkZB did a great job highlighting the differences between my mayoral opponent Phil Goff and I over the Government’s recent National Policy Statement on Urban Development. I said council can do a lot more to help itself and Aucklanders to get more, cheaper houses built. Whereas Phil Goff continued his pattern of criticising the Government.  

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ZB budget difference

Times of India: Turban Day Rainbow

The boys and I participated in Auckland’s first turban day recently and the Times of India reported my enthusiasm for the event. In Auckland, we see increasing numbers of people wearing turbans and it was a neat experience to have one made and wear it around. Ahryn and Reuben had a bit to tell their friends! I said I would be happy to come back next year.  

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Turban Day

NewstalkZB: Spat Between Mayoral Candidates Over Port Location

My Auckland mayoral opponent Phil Goff and I have very different views over the Ports of Auckland. My five and half years on council and many conversations with Aucklanders tells me we have other priorities to deliver ahead of moving the port – such as better transport and more affordable housing. The port can exist on its current location for decades to come. We can stop it extending further into…

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Spat

Bus Repaint Fumes

I attended the Kaipatiki Local Board meeting in Glenfield this morning and heard councillors and local board members voicing concerns about Auckland Transport’s bus repaint plans – which will kill off iconic legacy identities such as Birkenhead Transport. AT has been directed by the local board to report to it on what has gone wrong with AT’s approach is another example of ‘Super city’ regionalisation going wrong. It is resulting…

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No paint

Goff Misleading On Port Move

Phil Goff is “patently lying” to Aucklanders in claiming he can move the Auckland port says Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. His promise to move the Auckland port has as much credibility as Donald Trump’s wall. “He has no idea how much it will cost ratepayers, where it should be moved to and how long it will take.” “He has no funding plan to pay for a move but wants a…

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image

Politik: Urban Development Statement No Circuit Breaker

The Government’s draft Urban Development National Policy Statement will help further focus Auckland Council on land supply, BUT: we at council are still holding back houses being built. I have a plan which I refered to in my statement on the NPS, which Richard Harman’s Politik blog also picked up. The Government’s draft Urban Development National Policy Statement isn’t the circuit breaker Auckland needs says Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas….

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Circuit breaker

EMA: Thomas Vs Goff (Part 2)

This is part 2 of the Employers and Manufacturers Associations examination of the leading Auckland mayoral candidates views on business issues. Here, Goff seems to have no idea about rating policy which is surprising as the business differential has been “the” hot button issue for business for years. On the port, in other media he has been adamant that he will move it but here he seems to have a…

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Goff part 2

What Kind Of Mayoral Couple?

Wendy and I have had interest from media about what kind of mayoral couple we would be. We’ve done a series of interviews talking about how we live our lives and what our priorities would be as a family. We’re both busy professionally. Wendy with her Deloitte consulting partner and governance roles, and me with my council and business leadership activity. Our boys keep us busiest of all! But helping out…

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Wendy and I

NBR: Run Auckland Council Better

The National Business Review covered my response to the budget on Friday. Edited sections are below and the full story here but behind paywall here.

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NBR complaining

Newstalk ZB: Auckland’s Elected Members Unhappiest They’ve Ever Been

Newstalk ZB is reporting my comments that elected Auckland Council members are the unhappiest we have ever been. I think we are reflecting our constituents! We need a new mayor who knows what the issues and the solutions are. Not someone with local government ‘training wheels’ on. Looking at you Phil Goff.

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Unhappy ZB

Satisfaction With Auckland Council Plummets

Auckland’s elected members are the unhappiest they have been since the council began says Mayoral candidate and current local board member Mark Thomas. The two yearly councillor and local board survey which has just been reported shows satisfaction with council down to only 51% – a big drop from the 64% achieved last year. “These are the worst results since Auckland Council started in 2010.” “Additionally, only one quarter (24%)…

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Unhappy

Budget Says Auckland Council Needs To Do More

The just released Government budget makes it clear that Auckland Council needs to do more to help itself says Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. Bill English announced modest plans to allow up to 2,000 new houses built in Auckland on Crown-owned land at a cost of $100 million. (ckland needs 14,000 a year built and are currently only building 9,000.) But even the speed at which these houses get to market will…

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Budget do more

EMA Mayoral Series: Thomas vs Goff – Consenting, Transport

The Employers and Manufacturers Association has published a handy guide of what my mayoral opponent and I think on several key business issues. In the first part, we’re asked about the Resource Management Act and transport congestion. I’ll use my council and business experience to make consenting easier, faster and more customer friendly – and restore Len Brown’s transport budget cut. My opponent will use his 30+ years in central government…

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EMA part 1

AUT Press Conference: Three Priorities

I talked a little about my background and my top priorities at the Auckland University of Technology ‘press conference’ I attended recently. I also posed a question for the students to ask my opponents. You can watch the short video here.

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Three priorities

Radio Live: Unitary Plan Will See Improved City Limits

I spoke with Radio Live on Friday about the Unitary Plan and whether Auckland should have city limits. Councillors had just been “gagged” on Unitary Plan issues and couldn’t speak, but having been closely involved for more than five years I was happy to comment. I also said it was inconceivable that no limits would result from our plan, but the old ‘concrete’ Metropolitan Urban Limit which has unfairly restricted…

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City Limits

NBR: Councillors gagged over Auckland unitary plan

The NBR has reported my concern that Auckland councillors are being gagged over the unitary plan. The report mentions that a “gagging edit” has been sent to councillors telling them not to attend any unitary plan meetings, speak with ratepayers about unitary plan issues or “like” anything on social media related to the unitary plan. Staff have regularly advised councillors to be careful of putting themselves in a conflict situation…

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Gagged

NBR: Transport Minister Agrees Port Move Likely “Impossible”

The NBR picked up this week’s debate on the Auckland port and interviewed me further on my views. Today they interviewed the Transport Minister Simon Bridges. He agrees with me that a port move will be “possibly impossible” because of cost and other issues. I made the tongue-in-cheek observation that we’ll be living on Mars before we move the port. Turns out NASA’s current plan is to have the first…

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Port on Mars new

Newstalk ZB: Mayoral Debate On The Port

Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB kicked off the week with an impromptu mayoral debate on whether the port of Auckland should be moved. This came from a survey published by MYOB which had a surprisingly close result: 39% vote for a port move, 30% vote against a move, 32% wouldn’t make a difference. Any need to move the port is decades away, which is handy because it will take decades…

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port debate

NZ Herald: Thomas Launches Growth Policies

The Herald covered by growth policy launch this week. I’m proposing some innovative solutions to deal to Auckland’s housing and growth challenges. A bit of debate this week around Auckland’s ‘city limits’. I think even if we get an “intense” Unitary Plan, we sill have the funding and processing constraints to deal with. We also have big transport congestion in key areas. We need the ability to sort this out…

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the_good_growth_plan_dark_blue

City Limits Likely To Stay In Auckland Plan

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas said there wasn’t a ‘snow balls chance in hell’ that the Hearings Panel will recommend abandoning all urban planning limits. “This idea has formed no part of the work council has done to date, which has been based on conventional zoning planning, and there is only one acknowledged city in the world with this status.” Thomas is the only mayoral candidate who has been involved…

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City limiits

NZ Herald: Tripartite Summit “Be Clearer About Value”

I attended the two day annual Tripartite summit in Auckland this week. It was a well organised, well attended with a wide range of interesting content. It’s the type of conference that, in the “real world”, would cost $900 per day. However, apart from the evening dinner, it was “free” – fully paid for by Auckland ratepayers along with some sponsorship. Anne Gibson covered my comment in her story here. I…

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Me and Eric

New Growth Policies For Auckland

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas will establish Special Development Areas in Auckland to fast-track new housing, he will use direct council incentives to bust land banks and he will develop a new ‘Hub and Spoke’ Unitary Plan model under the next council. Thomas also announced he would prioritise resolving key transport and public engagement issues with the Ports of Auckland, rather than any plan to move the port and he…

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Growth 2

NZ Herald: Homeless Plan Not Working

The NZ Herald has published my opinion piece on why Auckland’s homeless plan isn’t working and what I want to do about it. I wrote this in response to a challenge from Michelle Kidd of Te Rangimarie Trust. I’m the only mayoral candidate who has responded.

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Homeless plan

AUT Press Conference: Funding Growth

At the press conference I gave to the AUT media studies class this week, they asked about my rates and growth funding plan. I want to give Aucklanders a zero percent rates increase option in my first budget, but also a 2% average or a 4% average growth option. It’s the growth options I will argue for, but I think we have to demonstrate we can provide a savings dividend…

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Funding growth thumbnail (002)

Thomas Will Deal To Auckland Congestion Woes

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas said the Automobile Association, NZCID and EMA transport reports that have just been released show Auckland’s current transport plans are failing to keep up. He is promising to move quickly to reorganise council spending to boost transport funding and reprioritise Auckland Transport’s approach to focus on key local priorities as AA suggests. He will reorganise Auckland Transport to get it working more effectively by creating…

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NZCID transport

Breakfast TV: Auckland’s Transport Strategy Isn’t Working

I commented on Breakfast (TVNZ) this week, in response to New Zealand Automobile Association’s congestion survey, that Auckland’s current transport strategy isn’t working. Not enough of our key local priorities are being addressed and, on current plans, congestion will get worse. Happily, I have a plan to fix it and currently I’m the only mayoral candidate who does. Check it out here.  

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Breakfast transport

AUT Press Conference: We Have A Lot More To Do In Transport

I attended a “press conference” at Auckland University of Technology to be grilled by students about my Mayoral plans for Auckland. There were a lot of questions on transport. I said I would restore the $113M budget cut Len Brown made to our transport spending and I outlined some of the key projects I would advance. Check it out.  

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Better Transport Sooner AUT

Mayoral Debate: Better Transport Sooner 1#

Auckland needs better transport sooner. To deliver this we need a more honest conversation about what our priorities are and increased funding. Here’s a little of what I had to say at the recent Auckland mayoral debate.

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Assets mayor debate video

Spinoff: The Return Of Mark Thomas

The last Herald Editor in Chief Tim Murphy spent some time with me on the campaign trail in Panmure this week. He has a long memory (!) about some of the “unforgettable” things I have been involved in. But he did a good job outlining why I’m in a hurry to give Aucklanders the action they want. Have a read of his Spinoff article here.

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Man of action

The Future Transport Need For Pukekohe Is Now

I attended a meeting in Pukekohe this week on future transport ideas. As with other meetings around the Auckland region, there’s a lot less interest from locals in the 10 or 20 year future and much more in the 1 or 2 year one. Auckland Transport needs to act more on some of the key short-term answers (roundabouts, light phasing, intersection realignments) as well as confirming credible, funded future plans. This…

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Pukekohe

Mayoral Debate: Asset Swapping To Fix Transport

At the recent mayoral debate I spoke about my plan to swap some of the assets Aucklanders have from one type of asset to another eg. half our airport shares for a transport or other critical asset. I released this as part of my Affordability and Growth policy outline in March. The $20M per year dividend loss would need to be made up in the reduced congestion cost or house…

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Assets mayor debate video

Thomas To Join Homeless Sleepout To Explain Begging Ban

Auckland Mayoral Mark Thomas is joining the Lifewise Big Sleepout this year to explain his begging ban. Thomas received a personal invitation to participate from the Lifewise CEO Moria Lawler on Friday. He will use the Sleepout to both raise money for Lifewise and to explain the begging ban and extra support he will introduce if elected Mayor. The mayoral candidate has said Auckland’s 10 year plan to end homelessness…

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Lifewise

Mayoral Debate: Having Council Credibility

Understanding how Auckland Council works is key to being a credible new Mayor.  Phil Goff can make all the promises he likes but he has no experience at all in local government. I spoke about this at our recent mayoral debate. Have a look at a short video of what I said here:  

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Council cred 2

RNZ: You can’t pick and choose who you work with in local government

The three leading Auckland mayoral candidates attended another debate last night. Todd Niall from RNZ reported it. There was a bit of focus on our political background/alliances. I’m the only candidate with experience working across the different local government groups and independents in Auckland. I said the Mayor of Auckland has to work with all Councillors, not just one group. I get on with all the current councillors and am discussing…

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Indepedent

RNZ: Zero Rates An Important Option

Todd Niall from RNZ has reminded everyone  while covering another candidate’s policy release that I was the first Auckland Mayoral candidate to outline initial budget policies. I reiterated a key part of this today. Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas has reiterated that an Auckland Council he leads will give Aucklanders the option of freezing rates in his first budget. This was part of his initial Affordability and Growth policy outline…

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Rates choice

Newstalk ZB: Auckland needs to use own backyard to address housing shortage

Newstalk ZB has covered my response to Auckland’s housing crisis here. I said council needs to do a much better job with the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property it owns. For example, council vacated its former head office in the Civic building at Aotea Square in central Auckland two years ago and yet its future remains undecided. This was following the decision being announced in June 2012….

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ZB housing

Transport Planning Fail In Howick

The Chair of the Howick Local Board took me on a tour of the ward on Friday. My wife Wendy grew up in the area and we have family living there so I know it well. But the tour highlighted the growth problems Auckland’s new Mayor will need to solve The photo shows a granddad walking his grand-children on a main road in the middle of Flatbush because there are…

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Howick transport

There’s A Lot Of Crap Coming

Auckland Council’s waster and drinking water provider Watercare has been letting people in the North West of Auckland know the very significant projects they have underway to cater for the growth planned for their area. I popped into Watercare’s open day in Greenhithe to look in more detail at the North Harbour No.2 Watermain project and the Northern Interceptor Wastewater Pipeline project. The big issue for Auckland’s new mayor to…

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Watecare growth

RNZ: Mayoral Candidates Divided On Super City Enquiry

Todd Niall from RNZ asked me and other mayoral candidates what we thought of the Local Government Commission’s decision to ask Aucklanders what they thought about the “Super City”. This was as part of a couple of other interviews they did on this issue. _________________________________________________________________________________ “Auckland’s leading mayoral candidates had mixed views on the potential for reform. Centre-right candidate Mark Thomas said he would be encouraging people to make submissions…

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Super city loophole

Thomas Win In Auckland Mayoralty Twitter Poll

A random Twitter poll run over the last week has just finished. I’m very grateful for the support (and the win!), but I suspect the results in the poll that really counts in October will be a bit closer I got 44% in the poll with the next candidates at 31% and then 22%. 321 people voted in the poll.

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Twitter poll

Newshub: Mayoral candidate proposes asset ‘swap’

Paul Henry interviewed me again this morning, this time on my plan to do more to help fix Auckland’s housing and transport problems. If elected Mayor, I will seek Aucklanders approval in my first budget to swap around half of the shares we own for new transport assets which will help reduce our congestion and make it easier to build new houses. See what you think of my idea here.

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Asset swap

Policy Release: Better Transport Sooner

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas has announced a “Better Transport Sooner” transport policy which will deliver more local transport projects, reduce Auckland’s congestion sooner and reform Auckland Transport. To achieve this he will increase transport funding, restructure the way Auckland Transport works and implement a new “Hybrid” mass transport plan. “After five years of Auckland Council too many key local transport priorities remain unaddressed. Auckland Transport’s plans are too disconnected…

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Transport launch

NewstalkZB: Enough Is Enough

I joined members of the Manukau Indian Association in Papatoetoe as they drew attention to the spate of criminal attacks on small businesses in the wider area. President Veer Khar spoke of the need for more action on the ground. I think there is more council can do supporting local business associations with CCTV and lighting, and working with residents groups on community patrols.

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Enough is enough

Council Building Options To Be Discussed In Public

The Auckland Council CEO, and the Council Committee Chair, have agreed to my request to discuss the key issues surrounding the blow out in council building repair costs in public at tomorrow’s council committee meeting. This was the right decision and it should be an opportunity for Aucklanders to learn what has gone wrong, where the responsibility lies and what the options are. Key to this is understanding what has…

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Yes we got it

Newshub: Thomas Says Debate Building Repair Blowout In Public

Newshub (Paul Henry/Radio Live) has picked up my call for Auckland Council to debate the key issues around the reported $31m blowout in the headquarters building repair in public. Council’s Finance committee is planning to have a confidential discussion on this issue on Tuesday. I think this is unacceptable. If the leaked reports are true, ratepayers need to hear why this happened and what is being done to fix it….

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HQ blowout

Debate Council Building Repair Blowout In Public

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas wants the key issues related to the reported $31m blow-out in its headquarters building repair debated in public. The Orakei Local Board member has written to the Council Chief Executive to ask him to have officers provide a public update to councillors on the issues at Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting. “Reports that a $4m repair bill have blown-out to $31m are deeply concerning. Many people…

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money-building-dollar

Checkpoint: Mark Thomas interviewed on begging ban

John Campbell phoned this week. They wanted to come and speak to me about my plan to ban begging in Auckland and to provide more support to the homeless. They said they would speak to me on Queen street and then also speak with someone begging – and see what they thought. The interview between me, John Campbell and Ihaka is here.

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Checkpoint

NBR: Sir Bob Jones Says Mark Thomas Auckland’s Next Mayor

The National Business Review published an opinion piece from Sir Bob Jones that challenged the Auckland (and Wellington) mayoral candidates to deal effectively with begging on our city streets. As a result of my response, they say that I will win the Auckland mayoralty! Of course it’s unlikely to be that easy!! One issue won’t decide this contest – but I want to be clear that our current approach to…

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NBR begging

TVNZ: Mayoral Candidate Proposes Begging Ban Bylaw

TVNZ picked up my call for a more effective approach to dealing with homelessness and begging in Auckland. The current “10 year plan” isn’t solving this issue quickly enough, and ensuring the support needed. We need a fairer approach for everyone involved. Check it out here.

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Begging

Begging Ban And Better Homeless Support Needed

Experiencing homelessness and begging is incredibly tough. Fixing it has proved impossible. A lot of great people are involved helping, but we are not making enough progress. We’re not being fair on the homeless and we’re not being fair on other Aucklanders. We need a new approach. Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas will introduce a new bylaw to prohibit begging in Auckland and he will increase pressure on government agencies…

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Homeless

NBR: A Serious Review Needed Of ‘Million Dollar’ Memberships

The NBR has picked up my comments about today’s news that Auckland Council is a paid member of up to 250 external organisations. Revelations at today’s Auckland Council meeting that the council is a paid member of over 250 external groups will come as a complete surprise to ratepayers. Check out the list here: External organisations. It includes the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology and the American Institute…

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External orgs

NBR: Lobbying-“We should not pay for contact and activity that will happen in any case”

The NBR ran an article recently calling for Auckland Council to withdraw its funding of “lobby” groups – arguing that we can’t have it both ways. My comments are here: “Mark Thomas said Council should be involved with a wide range of groups that are interested in Auckland. He said this should include business groups and the many residents, ratepayers and other interest groups – almost all of whom are…

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NBR lobby story

NZ Herald: Thomas says avoid ratepayer funding for new stadium

The Herald asked me and other mayoral candidates about the idea of a new stadium for Auckland. I think we have higher priorities and I want to avoid the ratepayer directly funding it. My full comments are below. Aucklanders tell me if they had to vote now between paying for a new stadium or fixing our transport/sorting out cheaper housing, it’s transport and housing that would win and I agree….

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Stadium

NZ Herald: Volcanic view shafts to stay, for now

Well, it was a two hour debate – but we won for now. (Although we didn’t need a two hour debate on something that ended up going through unanimously.) As the Herald reports, we overturned the plan to scrap or reduce 8 viewshafts. I presented my board’s views along with the neighbouring Albert-Eden Local Board. We urgently need more, cheaper housing in Auckland and its right that there is pressure…

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Cones 2

NZ Herald: Volcanic Viewshafts To Be Scrapped

“Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas said Council’s approach to volcanic cone viewshafts echoes that of the ill-fated out-of-scope residential housing proposals which council was forced to withdraw last month. There has been no consultation with the residents about what they think of these changes,” Mr Thomas said. “The proposal comes a week after the Ministry of Culture and Heritage provided an update on one of central government’s “key cultural priorities”…

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Cones

Mayor’s “Free” Kids Swimming Policy Fail

Council officers presented a 198 page (!) report today on the impact of Len Brown’s 2013 policy to introduce free under 16’s swimming. There were some positive findings, but it mainly told us there’s been a 10% drop in kids actually swimming – as well as significant operational challenges at some of the new “free” pools. The policy hasn’t worked well. We could have funded even more free swimming for…

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Pool fail

NBR: More Unfunded Promises From Goff

This week Phil Goff made his third unfunded promise when he signed up to a new $1 billion stadium in Auckland. This follows his promises to roll-out light rail across central Auckland and to move the port. NBR Radio interviewed me about the stadium issue this week. The issues are a bit more complex than Phil makes out. It’s a shame he didn’t make the idea of a new stadium…

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Port

Auckland Now: Top 5 locations for a national sports stadium in central Auckland

“Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas said the most sensible thing when you’ve got an existing asset is to say, OK, really is there any way we could make this work? “And we haven’t done that.” Auckland has a lot of top transport and housing/infrastructure projects currently not funded. Phil Goff’s plan to move the port and build a new stadium continues his unfunded make-it-up-as-you-go approach. Read about our different approaches here.

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Moving stadium

$100M Plus Stadium Bill On Its Way To Auckland

Aucklanders will be astonished to hear that a $100 million Eden Park upgrade bill is in the pipeline says Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas “With the disclosure that Eden Park is unable to provide the $7-8 million per needed in annual depreciation, a very large deferred maintenance bill is heading Auckland’s way. In 15 years’ time that bill will have exceeded $100M and ratepayers already underwrite a $40 million dollar loan agreed to as…

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Mayor’s Climate Change Trip Comes At A Cost

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the report on Len Brown’s December $27,000 trip to Paris to attend the Climate Change Conference (COP21) confirms what a waste of time and money it was. “Worrying, the Mayor seems to also have signed Auckland up for more costs while in Paris without considering what this means.” Auckland Council’s Environment, Climate Change and Natural Heritage Committee will consider the 6 page report at…

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Climate Len Brown

NZ Herald: Mayoral Candidate Gives Ratepayers Choice

The NZ Herald covered my release of my initial Affordability and Growth policies. In the article, I say will give ratepayers a choice to freeze rates  – or a rates increase of around 2 per cent or 4 per cent which is more targeted towards projects in their area. I will urge that Aucklanders during my mayoral campaign to support growth, but will provide a $35 million council savings “dividend” in…

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Choice NZ Herald

Affordability And Investment Policies Launched

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas has announced he will give ratepayers an option to freeze rates next year together with options for targeted growth if he is elected Mayor at October’s election. He has today outlined a series of affordability and growth policies. Thomas has been attending annual budget consultation meetings around the region and says the strong feedback he has received is that council needs to cut waste and…

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Policies

The Only Way Is Up

Really encouraging to see the boost in support over the last week. I should appear on Paul Henry more often! People are looking for a new Mayor for Auckland who actually knows Auckland’s issues and who can sort all the stupid stuff out. Who can cut the council waste, deliver better transport sooner, improve our housing and fix the growth plans. That’s what I’m offering.

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Poll - short

Unitary Plan Confusion Needs Sorting Out

Auckland Mayoral Candidate and Orakei Local Board member Mark Thomas has written to CEO Stephen Town asking he sort out the confusion that exists regarding council’s status in front of the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel. “Aucklanders will be very concerned to hear reports that council is ‘withdrawing’ from being present to assist the Panel consider submissions.” “Media reports today imply council staff will not participate in the hearings now…

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Unsure

NewstalkZB: Council Budget Issues Extend Beyond IT

Leighton Smith, NewstalkZB’s morning host, was discussing the Information Technology blowout at Auckland Council. But the next Mayor needs to be able to stretch beyond just IT as there are bigger issues than this. Fixing council’s project oversight and funding problems requires a good understanding across all of council. Five years as a member of Auckland Council has given me that. He read my note to him out on air….

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Newstalk

Rates Freeze And Targeted Growth Option In Year One

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas is announcing that if elected Mayor he will give Aucklanders an option to freeze rates in his first year’s budget. Thomas made his comments when he appeared on the Paul Henry breakfast show. “Auckland Council needs to earn the trust of Aucklanders. Although our region needs significant investment to cope with previous underinvestment and with growth challenges, Aucklanders don’t trust council with the way it…

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Choice

NBR: Thomas and Goff head-to-head

Phil Goff and I appeared before the Trans Tasman Business Circle this week. I announced I would lead a merge of council’s events and tourims business (ATEED) with the facilities business (RFA) to get some savings and more efficiency. Phil announced he favoured selling a golf course. Although, as the NBR said, he got his valuation numbers wrong – he also doesn’t understand that he will first need to bust…

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Goff Tran

Auckland Now: “[Council] really made a major mistake”

I spoke to Fairfax’s Auckland-based reporter following the 6 hour shambolic council meeting I attended on Wednesday which saw the unsubstantiated, non-consulted zoning changes to 20,000+ houses withdrawn. “Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas, who is also on the Orakei Local Board which organised a 700-strong public meeting over the zoning evidence, said Wednesday’s result was the right one. “We really made a major mistake,” he said. “I think what we saw…

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Reject

Paul Henry: “I think actually you would be a very capable Mayor”

It’s always an interesting time being interviewed by Paul Henry. He interviewed me about what he called my plans to “reign in Auckland Council”. He was (unusually!) kind enough to say he thoughts I would make a very capable Mayor. Although of course such an undertaking is not without its challenges! Check it out here.

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Paul Henry

Council Arts Plan A Costly Performance

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas said the $348,000 cost ratepayers have provided for the 64 page Auckland Arts and Culture Action Plan highlight’s the ‘performance’ problem at the heart of the Mayor’s leadership of Auckland Council. “It took almost 3 years to develop, included significant research and survey work and extensive consultation and engagement, but it’s “action plan” includes pages of statements of the obvious with few hard measures.” “There…

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Arts plan

An Extraordinary Meeting To Sort Out An Extraordinary Problem

Len Brown had no option but to call an extraordinary Auckland Council meeting for next Wednesday to try and find a way out of the Unitary Plan hole he has dug council into. Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas, who was at today’s council meeting, said a delegation of five councillors forced his hand last night but they represent a majority on the Governing Body and a majority across Auckland. “I…

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Extra

RNZ: Leading Candidates Back Consultation

There was a big turnout to the first Auckland Mayoral candidates meeting in Ellerslie on Monday night. RNZ reported that all three of the leading candidates want new consultation on the unitary plan. I was the only candidate who wrote to the Chair of the Hearings Panel in December asking for this. The clock is ticking. We now need the Mayor to show some leadership and withdraw the out-of-scope changes…

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Leading candidates

Tony Carter: 6+3 years for Directors, At least 5 years for CEOs

Tony Carter, Chair of Air New Zealand and a director of Fletcher Building and ANZ Bank, spoke at an Institute of Directors function recently. I was interested in his comment that a CEO really should stay leading an organisation for at least 5 years – otherwise it may reflect the fit was not right. He also spoke about terms for directors. He was seeing directors typically appointed for 3 +…

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IOD

Goff’s Unfunded Light Rail Promise Meaningless

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas has rubbished Phil Goff’s enthusiasm for an untested and unfunded light rail system serving central Auckland. “Throwing support behind undeveloped and unfunded ideas has been a hallmark of Len Brown’s mayoralty. Auckland’s are still waiting for rail to Albany and rail to the airport the Mayor promised in his first election campaign. Labour’s candidate is falling into the same trap.” “He is also confusing his…

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funding

World TV: Mark Thomas – The Best Combination Of Skills

Great discussion with World TV on Tuesday. We talked about my plans to reduce the core cost of council, to boost council action on housing (supply and cost pressures) and to focus council better on the areas council really influences. The reporter thought my combined business & Auckland Council/political background was a big advantage. We’ll post more video as it comes through.

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World TV

NZ Herald: “…It Showed The Unitary Plan Was Failing”

Around 700 people met this week concerned about council’s significant changes to residential zoning in many parts of Auckland. The 8 residents’ associations of the Orakei Ward organised the meeting and it demonstrated the strength of concern being felt. I made the point to the NZ Herald that the meeting was not just an eastern suburbs issue and it showed the Unitary Plan was failing.

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Up meeting

Street Maintenance Budget Needs Resetting

A letter to the Editor in the Herald this week caught my eye. I took up Jacquie’s advice and walked up Victoria St West. Rubbish and weeds abounded sadly as the pictures show. I picked up some of the rubbish and got a job logged at council/Auckland Transport for rest. But this problem stems from the cuts our current Mayor made to core council activity like this. As the next…

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Vic West Pic 2

Greg Clark: “Intensify The City Center And Protect The Suburbs”

Additional submissions on the Unitary Plan have been refused by the Hearings Panel. If they had been allowed, I would have encouraged international cities specialist Greg Clark to make a submission. Visiting Auckland again last week, he said Auckland’s big failure has been not ‘intensifying’ (my word) properly in our city center. He goes on to say that better planned and managed growth in the city center would “protect the…

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A tale of two cities

Auckland Not Part Of State Of Nation?

The Opposition Leader’s lack of focus on Auckland issues in his state of the nation speech today was puzzling says Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas. “There was no mention of any specific policy to help deal with Auckland’s transport, housing and affordability challenges.” “This was in marked contrast to John Key’s speech also in Auckland earlier in the week with a $4.2 billion transport investment package around the region over…

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State of Nation

NZ Herald: Tolls Not The Answer To Fund City Rail Link

The Herald picked up my challenge to Len Brown that council has not done nearly enough to justify further burdening ratepayers with more council charges. Some of my opponents want to rush to introduce tolling, but apart from it being currently impossible (without Government approval), the work has not been done to consider in detail what form of tolling we need and how lower income households and local roads might…

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Tolls 2

RNZ: How Would Auckland’s Mayoral Candidates Pay For CRL?

RNZ interviewed me yesterday on how I thought major transport projects should be paid for. I said we need reduce the core cost of council so we can spend more on transport and that like any large organization we should look at what we own and see if ratepayers want to do an asset swap: replace an asset we don’t need to own, for a new transport one we really…

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Pay for CRL

Road Tolls Jump The Gun

Auckland Mayor Candidate Mark Thomas is taking issue with Len Brown’s claim that road tolling in Auckland is ‘absolutely justified’. “We know this is not true as fewer than a third of the Aucklanders who submitted on last year’s 10 year budget were convinced. “27,000 Aucklanders submitted on the budget. Of the 13,700 of these who commented on the road pricing question only 34% clearly supported a motorway charge.” Although…

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Tolls

NBR: Dismissal Of Plea For More Time Unfair

The National Business Review interviewed me late on Friday regarding my response to the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel’s decision to refuse to allow additional submissions on council’s substantial up-zoning plans. The article is pay to view unfortunately as is the radio interview I did, but in it I say that none of the six reasons the Hearings Panel Chair gives are compelling. At last report, the panel had space available…

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NBR UP

Making Hard Choices

The new Local Government Minister’s New Year’s message to councils out today in the Local Government Magazine is that “hard choices need to be made about which services to provide into the future and which are becoming untenable”. I agree. It comes as we learn that inflation dropped to a 17 year low of 0.1% in 2015 while rates rose by 6.2% across NZ and of course by an average…

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LG Minister

Fairfax: Auckland “upzoning” plans challenged.

Fairfax’s Auckland reporter Maria Slade interviewed me about my reaction to the Hearings Panel refusing to allow additional submissions, and the steps 2040 are considering. “Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas asked the panel to allow late submissions on the issue…he was disappointed by the panel’s response. “I think there was a big opportunity, within sensible limits, to allow those who found their situation dramatically changed to present information and evidence to…

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2040 response

Unitary Plan Panel Submissions Decision Unfair and Hugely Disappointing

The Unitary Plan Hearings Panel Chair Judge Kirkpatrick has released his response to my letter asking for property owners caught up in Council’s new residential zoning proposals to be allowed to make comment. He won’t do it which is unfair and hugely disappointing. Auckland Council released significantly changed residential zoning plans two weeks before Christmas. In my letter I asked him to use his authority to allow new submitters, within…

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AUP letter

bFM Radio Interview

Good to speak with Max and Vince on the bFM breakfast radio show on Wednesday. The used the regular slot they call “Brown’s Town” where they usually interview the Mayor or Deputy Mayor. We covered the usual transport and housing issues, but also a bit about the different style of mayoralty I will have: “less about the ideology and more about what works” as they summed it up. Their podcast…

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bFM

Letter To Judge Kirkpatrick, Chair AUPI Hearings Panel

I wrote to the Chair of the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel the day after the significantly changed Unitary Plan residential zoning maps came out. I’m asking him to use the discretion he has to allow people who have not submitted to be allowed to comment on these changes. I think this is reasonable. I know many people who consciously did not submit on their residential zone because they…

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Letter to Judge Kirkpatrick

NBR: Secret Super-Sizing Doesn’t Impress Many

The NBR has gone, ah, large on my comments around the release of significantly changes residential zoning maps by council. It’s behind their pay-wall, but the summary is here. The media release the story was based off is here.

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NBR Super size

Backlash Expected Over Zoning Changes Made In Secret

The NBR has reported: “Mayoral aspirant Mark Thomas is scathing of Auckland Council’s plans not to communicate significant intensification changes [directly] to property owners”. The NBR has run this story about my concerns that council is risking further undermining the Unitary Plan with the approach we are taking. I did a radio interview on this which I’ll post when it’s available. We had the opportunity to communicate better with property…

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Backlash

Auckland To Be ‘Super-Sized’

Tens of thousands of Aucklanders are now discovering that their neighbourhood could be ‘super-sized’ as part of much more aggressive council development than they were expecting says Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas. “After months of behind-close-doors discussion on to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan’s (PAUP) residential zones, the maps showing the changes have finally being released.” Thomas, who has participated in many of the meetings, said many neighbourhoods across large parts…

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Goff’s Growth Plans Needs More Intensity

Labour’s Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff supports intensification, but not where it is not popular. Welcome to the world of local government Phil. As I travel around the region, ratepayers are telling me they want their mayoral candidates to be clear about their plans. Wishful promises of this or that aren’t terribly interesting – because we’ve had a lot of that over the last five years. Tomorrow the formerly confidential…

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Filling The Skills Gap

I met with the team at COMET (City of Manukau Education Trust) Auckland today. This is an Auckland Council Controlled Organisation and private trust which supports education and skills across Auckland. They “function as a champion and connector of action and initiatives, in order to improve the effectiveness and equity of the Auckland education and skills system.” Council and central government provide around $500,000 in funding. They refer to filling the gap between…

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Filling the gap

Auckland Mayoral Candidates Challenged To Front Up

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas has challenged other candidates to be specific about their plans and provide relevant background information, where unknown, such as who they had voted for in previous General Elections. Thomas also said vague plans to reduce rates, improve transport or move the port were meaningless without a funded plan on how to achieve them. The former National candidate also said how a candidate had voted in…

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Show me the money

Myth Busting The Myths

When I see the “myth busting” fiction delivered by the Mayor yesterday as part of his last budget proposal, I half regret he is not standing again. I would have enjoyed challenging face-to-face his myth that he has held rates to below 2.5-4%, when the reality is that AVERAGE total rates increases for home owners this year is actually 9.9%. I would have liked to rebut his myth that services…

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Myth

NZ Herald: “Getting Strong Support”

I spoke to Bernard Orsman this week updating him on the progress the campaign had been making two and a half months after launching. We are building a great team, policy development is well advanced and our advertising and other promotions activity has been really well received. You can read his take on it here.

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Mark for Mayor

The Nation: What To Do With Golf Courses

TV3’s The Nation programme finished up last weekend with their Xmas-style informal show. There were 60 of us there to comment on some of the key events of the year. The former Labour Party leader and I participated in our first head-to-head discussion. You can watch it at about the 19″ minute mark here. Goff has criticised council for looking at its balance sheet to see if there is a…

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The Nation 5

Auckland Unitary Plan Concerns Set To Worsen

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says existing unease with the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) will worsen if council continues with its plans not to directly communicate to property owners about the significant residential zoning changes understood to have been made. “Auckland Council is preparing to release the greatly changed PAUP residential zoning maps next week and there are no plans to contact property owners directly to explain these changes.”…

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UP concerns

NBR: 59% Agree Goff Should Resign

The National Business Review covered my response to the former Labour Party leader’s recent launch and ran a poll based off my call that he should stand down from Parliament to avoid a conflict and focus fully on Auckland as I am doing. It’s behind their paywall, but Sally Lindsay reports that 59% agreed, with only 15% opposing and 26% saying he should do so only if campaigning distracts from…

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NBR story

Daily Post: Auckland mayoral candidate has local roots

It’s been many years since I lived in Rotorua, but the local daily newspaper tracked me down and did a profile on me. From burger flipping, which I started in Rotorua, to the Auckland mayoralty! Still working in a hot kitchen though

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Daily Post story

Auckland Now: An Auckland Languages Strategy: Core Or Context

COMET (the Auckland Community Education Trust), an Auckland Council ratepayer funded education and skills agency, has proposed an Auckland Languages Strategy where all Aucklanders will speak 3 languages: English, Maori and one other. This will require some work as 72% of us currently speaking only one language. I live in a multi-cultural household and completely understand the value of speaking more than one language, but with all the challenges Auckland…

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musthave

NZ Herald: A Council Isn’t Here To Save The World

The NZ Herald has published my opinion piece which I titled A Council Isn’t Here to Save The World (they re-titled it, as they do). In it I argue that the current Mayor and the next one should focus less on the world stage and more on leading a fix to Auckland’s challenges here at home.

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You-dont-need-to-save-the-world

Politik: Should Parliament Sort Out the Auckland Council?

The Politik blog, run by experienced political journalist Richard Harman, has run a story based on ACT Leader David Seymour’s idea that structural changes are needed to improve the lot of the local boards part of Auckland Council. Richard quotes me: “However centre-right Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas told POLITIK that he thought better leadership in Auckland could help solve the problem.” “[Thomas] thought it might be worthwhile re-allocating budgets from…

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Politik

Phil Goff Should Resign To Avoid Double-Dipping

Former Labour Party Leader Phil Goff should resign from Parliament if he is serious about contesting the Auckland mayoralty says mayoral candidate Mark Thomas. “Aucklanders rightly expect anyone serious about the mayoralty will be fully committed to it.” “Any plans Goff has to have his mayoral campaign funded by taxpayers will be seen for the double-dipping it is.” “I am funding my campaign from donations already received. There will be…

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Staff Photo by Grant Morris

Len Brown Should Focus On Auckland’s Financial Climate

I am urging Len Brown to use some of the recommendations from the Alternative Financing reports and propose an amendment to next year’s Auckland Council budget to address the financial pressure Auckland ratepayers are under. Council’s Finance and Performance Committee has received the two reports on Alternative Sources of Financing commissioned as part of the 10-year budget decision making. The Mayor should use his executive authority to prioritise the key…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Significant Opportunities In Alternative Financing Reports

Auckland Council rates could be reduced, new community centres and local transport projects funded and key strategic assets retained if the next steps in the alternative financing reports are progressed says Auckland Council Mayor candidate Mark Thomas. The Cameron Partners and EY reports on Alternative Sources of Financing were commissioned by council earlier in the year as part of the 10-year budget decision making. “It took the Mayor five years…

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Risk Vs Reward Words on Scale Weigh Positives and Negatives

Place Your Order?

My third radio ad talks about the experience I have had running customer businesses. The next Mayor of Auckland needs to develop a much more customer focused council. Listen to this ad here.

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McDonalds

Could You Run A Complex Business You’ve Never Been Part Of?

Auckland Council is a large, complex public business. Could you run such a business if you’ve never been part of it, or didn’t understand it? I’ve had five years on council, and twenty years running or working with large organisations. Check out our second radio ad here.

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Complex businesses

Why Would Anyone Stand For Mayor?

We have started a radio advertising campaign to talk some more about what I’ve done, and what my focus will be. It started with Why Would Anyone Stand for Mayor? See what you think.

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but_why

Auckland’s Next Mayoral Contest Gets Underway

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas said Len Brown’s decision today sets up for a clear contest between a candidate with detailed experience of the last five years of Auckland Council and twenty in business, and one with detailed experience of the last 30 years of Parliament. “Auckland now needs to turn its mind to Len’s replacement and to who best understands Auckland’s challenges and can deliver on its opportunities” Thomas…

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Contest

Six Threats Facing Auckland

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas said Auckland was also facing threats similar to those presented by New Zealand’s spy agencies in their confidential briefing to the Government which has just been released. Thomas said Auckland’s threats were less confidential, but some were even more serious: 1) Violent extremism Concern about rates rises has reached an all-time high. The 10% average rates increase has created a tipping point and the Mayor…

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Threats

Business Association Improvements Needed

Although the timing was a bit crap – couldn’t go welcome the All Blacks home – there was a useful council workshop today on trying to improve the service Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) get from council. These are the 48 business associations who operate through council’s targeted rate programme. A couple of years ago, town centre maintenance was reorganised between three different parts of council (including Auckland Transport). This has…

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Better service

Getting The Right Skills To Govern

I’m a member of the Institute of Directors and I went to their panel discussion tonight on, among other things, how to find the right skills for a board. Four people experienced in recruiting directors for private, public and not-for-profit entities spoke about the key dimensions shareholders (or ratepayers) should expect to find in those who govern the organisation. The panel said strong governors need a technical capability (a core…

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Good governance

New “Auckland Future” Ticket Welcomed

The Herald has picked up my call welcoming a new Auckland political group being formed. With voter turnout at only 37% in 2013, positive and useful steps by any group to provide greater clarity for voters should be welcomed. You can read the article here

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Herald

Clearer Direction For Auckland Voters Will Help

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Mark Thomas said those concerned about a new centre-right group supporting candidates at next year’s Auckland local body elections should consider that in 2013, 24 Labour party candidates were elected to Auckland Council including two councillors. “This was a significant increase and indicated that in parts of our region, voters responded to a clearer direction of what candidates stand for.” “As an independent candidate for Mayor I…

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Who is who

Local Development Priorities Should Be Regional Priorities Too

Kane from All About Auckland interviewed me again yesterday about the Auckland’s development and transport priorities, and what council should be prioritising. In the first session we spoke about how I see the role of council’s newly merged Council Controlled Company Panuku Development Auckland.

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Mark Thomas Standing For Mayor: The Hobson

The Hobson magazine has included a profile from me in their latest issue. In it I talk more about my background and why I am standing for Mayor of Auckland. The Hobson is aimed for residents living near Hobson Bay in Parnell, Remuera and Orakei but it is a terrific local community magazine deserving of a much wider readership!

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Hobson

Buy Local Pay Regional In East Coast Bays

At last week’s meeting at Murrays Bay on their wharf redevelopment, the adjacent Castor Bay pontoon came up. As part of explaining how difficult it often is for council to get small projects like this delivered, the council officer explained that an $11,000 pontoon had incurred more than $30,000 in design and consenting costs. At the Rodney Local Board earlier in the week, board members and the councillor expressed similar…

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Local

Regional Trades Off Local In Rodney

The Mayor witnessed first hand the problem with his council budget when he attended the Rodney Local Board meeting this week. We were both there, and a potential Walkworth swimming pool highlighted the issue. A pool in Walkworth has been talked about for years. A gap has been identified in the area and it was popularly supported in the Rodney Local Board Plan last year. At the meeting the board…

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Twin coast

Mayors Transport Talks Take Their Toll

Len Brown’s transport talking tour of Auckland is confirming the huge gulf that exists between his transport plans for Auckland and the priorities of its residents. I’ve been to four of these Transport Talks now in Massey, Balmoral, St Heliers and Parnell and hearing the discussion between the Mayor and those attending must be what it is like occupying a parallel universe. The Mayor speaks about the huge progress he…

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Talk Transport

Local Communities Want Serious Public Displays Of Affection

Auckland’s new development agency Panuku Development Auckland (PDA) briefed local board members yesterday on its overall approach. I think they got more than they bargained for with the questions/reactions that followed. PDA’s approach was summarised as three phases of activity: Transform, Unlock and Support. ‘Transform’ will typically involved complex and long-term activities (eg. the Waterfront). ‘Unlock’ will release value in areas where council is the principle or a substantial player…

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PDA

Global Trade Trumps The Auckland Environment

Auckland Council spent two hours today debating the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement the same day the first Auckland State of the Environment Report in 5 years came out. The irony will not have been lost on many. The State of the Environment Report assessed a range of factors that Auckand Council actually directly impacts and regulates: water quality, natural environment, built heritage. The TTPA is a multi-nation economic agreement covering…

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World TV Interview Focus On Changing Auckland

It was great to catch up with the team at World TV based in Penrose this morning. They interviewed me about what I saw as the key priorities for Auckland, and why I was running. They also asked me how I would respond to the changing face of Auckland, with the number of Asian New Zealanders expected to continue to grow strongly. I said as someone who has an Asian/Kiwi…

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World TV pic

Why Would Anyone Stand For Mayor?

The NZ Herald has published my article on why I am standing for Mayor of Auckland. You can read it here: Why would anyone stand for Mayor?

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Easy Wins For Council To Fix Loopy Rules

The Local Government Minister released the Rules Reduction Taskforce’s “Loopy Rules Report” last week. It was a privilege to serve on the Taskforce and an even greater privilege to sit and listen to hundreds of Aucklanders and other kiwis tell their stories of good rules gone bad. We have a Top 10 list of issues for both the Government and councils to fix. Although our suggestion to make it easier…

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Local Business Associations Need A Better Partner

Auckland has 47 of what are called Business Investment Districts or BIDS across Auckland. You and I might know them as local business associations, but these Auckland Council structures are special. They mean the majority of the business owners in a special geographic area have agreed (in a poll) to pay an additional rate to fund marketing and promotional activity for their area. Of course there are many more ‘not…

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Council Should Do More In The Area It Controls

I participated in TV3’s the Nation’s Twitter Panel on Saturday morning. The political current affairs programme interviewed Anne Tolley on the report she had recently received on the substandard performance of the Child, Youth and Family agency. Established in 1999, multiple reviews over many years have failed to achieve consistently high delivery by this agency. This has some relevance for Auckland Council as several of the Auckland Plan measures relate…

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We’ve Done Everything Right!

When criticism of a project comes, it’s a common refrain (typically from those running the show) that the right process was followed and all responsibilities were met. Auckland Council’s Chief Executive said this during the difficult vote in June on the Mayor’s 10-year budget when questioned about the consultation process. Despite key information about the possibility of a new transport rate missing from the household budget summary, he said the…

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Understand me

Less From Less: Community Grants

I attended a council meeting this week where 8 community grants/events applications were being considered. The information available was so poor I wrote the attached sentence to the attending officer’s manager requesting better information – and all my colleagues present signed. The total amount requested was around $38,000, although no more than $27,000 was available, so you would have thought this should be very straightforward. Also, applications for council grants…

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Falling Unitary Plan Hearings Participation A Worrying Sign

The Unitary Plan Committee of Auckland Council was told this week that the number of submitters actually participating in the Hearings Panel process had declined again. The report noted that participation rates for individual submitters are now 2.6%, community groups 7.2%, and special interest groups 9.2% . Then without any sense of irony the report noted: “This continues to reflect feedback from some submitters about the demands of the process.” So…

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empty-conference-room

The Trouble With Transport

The Mayor is undertaking a round of transport meetings across the region.  He describes them as a new take on his now faded Mayor in the Chair public consultation sessions. He’s doing this, he says, because he has found that people don’t understand Auckland’s transport priorities. Aucklanders may be surprised to hear this. Didn’t we go through an “18 month” 10-year budget consultation round with 40 meetings across Auckland to…

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Mayor in the Chair

Local Boards Approve Too Little And Receive Too Much

Today’s Orakei Local Board Monthly Business Meeting Agenda has 295 pages, is 26MB in size and has over 30 items on the agenda. This is probably a little larger than average but by no means unusual. Our Hibiscus and Bays Local Board colleagues were at 365 pages last month and Mangere-Otahuhu reached 410 pages and an impressive 85MB for one of their meetings But what does all this bandwith amount…

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OLB agenda

Mayor’s Liveable City Fails The Flood Test

You might think the picture on the right is from this morning’s Tamaki Drive flooding, but it’s from April 2014. How about this one? That would be February 2014. What about this? June 2012. This? January 2011. The pictures I have even go back to this one. From 2008. I know all this because earlier this year my board was presented with the latest 50 page council document: The Orakei…

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TD flooding April 2014-alt

CEO’s Targets Must Measure What Aucklanders Care About

Auckland Council’s second CEO has been in place for nearly 20 months and this week worked started preparing his performance targets for 2016. In the ‘real world’, outside of council, these sorts of targets would usually be in place to coincide with the start of the new financial year (1 July), and the 10-year budget we have just spent 18 months finalizing. This week the council committee that reviews the…

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correction-guidance11

Taking The Transport Temperature Too Hard

This week’s Governing Body meeting is proposing NOT to proceed with a referendum on what additional transport funding options Aucklanders are prepared to pay for. The good news, assuming the proposal proceeds, is ratepayers will save the $992,570 it is estimated to cost to both run the referendum and, critically, to produce an information programme to tell everyone about the issues. The bad news is that Auckland will be no…

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We_Demand_A_Referendum_Logo

Orewa Objects And Manurewa Matters

I attended the meetings of two different local boards, serving even more different communities last week. The Hibiscus and Bays Local Board which combines part of the former Rodney and North Shore Councils, and Manurewa part of former Manukau. Both boards heard from locals about local issues that not only are they best placed to make decisions on but which also come within local board decision making responsibilities. But, because…

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Mayoral promises fall flat

Where’s The Local Boards’ Audit Report?

   Council reviewed its progress on achieving Maori Responsiveness this week. It looked over 34 pages of reports and reviewed the $6m of spending that had taken place in the last year. One of the reports was the annual audit of the Maori Responsiveness work programme that, the Mayor and councillors have agreed with the Independent Maori Statutory Board, will take place involving consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This all follows the…

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Making Growth Contributions That Count

The NZ Herald’s “World Class” Auckland series is halfway through. They use typically 3 pages of the paper to cover ‘the big’ Auckland issues: how we currently rank, what random experts and real people think about it, and, briefly, what more we need to do. It’s great they are doing this, but the results have been a bit mixed (the half a page on Recreation in the Saturday Herald was…

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hand-money

Existing Growth Problems Should Inform 30 Year Planning

I attended the last of the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy public meetings in Kumeu this week. Among other things, council is asking for comment on whether the idea of planning 30 years into the future is a good idea, and whether this sequence is right. It’s really one of those “what would like for Christmas” questions. Where do you start…. There was solid interest. Around 90 locals packed the…

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Growth

Did You Find A New “King” For Auckland?

The Herald on Sunday gave five people the chance to say what they would do if elected Mayor (or King as they called it) of Auckland. I guess next week’s edition will have the five potential Queens? If I was running for Mayor, here’s how I would answer the questions. 1) What’s your solution to reported levels of foreign ownership of residential property: Be clear on what the issues for…

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Crown

Is The Best Decision Always The Right One?

In two different parts of Auckland this week, we saw Auckland’s region-wide conflict about how we grow being played out. And we saw golfers and yachties potentially looking for different options. In Takapuna, the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board was dealing with a longstanding issue of whether to close an eighty year old camp ground and support a new yachting development. In Mt Eden, the Albert Eden Local Board were debating reducing…

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Golf and yacht

Deeds Not Words Needed To Improve Auckland’s Governance

Auckland Council has established a working party of a few councillors and local board members to improve the working relationship between the two arms of Auckland’s governance. This came out of the difficult Long Term Plan process which, amongst many other things, saw all 21 local boards sign a protest letter to Mayor Brown complaining they were not being listened to, and their local community priorities were being addressed adequately….

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Dysfunction

Does Auckland Transport Want A New Mayor Too?

The Mayor has talked glowing of the additional transport rate he secured with his one vote majority at budget setting in June. He claims this will help progress Auckland’s transport investment while he tries to persuade the Government and Aucklanders of a more effective way of funding this. You will hear less from the Mayor of the dire state the Auckland transport network will descend to under his 10 year…

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footpath

Transport Measures Don’t Tell The Full Story

Auckland Transport’s rail performance issues have been well publicised. As the graph to the right shows, “service performance” (what AT calls whether public transport arrives on-time) has plummeted from a high 80% rolling average to 73.6% for rail punctuality in June (it was back up into the 80%’s in the first two weeks of July). Unsurprisingly this has caused a spike in complaints to AT. Up from the usual 1,000…

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AT Service Performance

How Many Politicians Are Too Many?

The Auckland Council decision yesterday to ask the Government for the power to create more council politicians didn’t mention the Orakei ward. There are a couple of reasons for this. The local board wasn’t consulted on the report (indeed no local boards were – despite the report noting these issues are of “strong interest” to local boards). Maybe another reason is that Orakei doesn’t seem like a ward which is…

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Governance

8 Deficiencies In Council’s 10-Year Budget Process (Auditor General)

Whether or not Aucklanders were adequately consulted on Council’s 10-year budget, the Long Term Plan, was the subject of considerable discussion with the Auditor General at the now infamous one-vote-majority approval meeting in June. At yesterday’s Council Audit & Risk Committee, her full report was tabled. In it she was as critical as she can be that, actually, the consultation was not delivered as the law intends. She made nine…

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Ranking

Empowering Communities: Seeking Change From Within

The community development area of council is undergoing a potentially significant change. Called “Empowering Communities” it came from the Mayor’s budget proposal announced in late 2014. But like too many of the Mayor’s plans, it came too late and hasn’t been well developed. At the heart is the idea that there may be providers in the community who can do a better job running council facilities and services than council….

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ECA

Are You Feeling You’re Shaping Auckland?

As we watch some of the key Unitary Plan decisions on character, height and density get changed, how many Aucklanders are now thinking: What a bloody waste of time? In the last few weeks, the Hearings Panel has rejected a key council argument around protecting character buildings, and councillors have voted to reverse the decision they made in 2013 to have residential density rules. The key Mixed Housing Suburban and…

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Shape Auckland

Better Affordability Comes From Better Spending

Both Len Brown supporter Sir John Walker and long-time NZ Herald council commentator Brian Rudman came to the same conclusion this week as many ratepayers already have. If Auckland Council wants to deal with the ‘not-enough-money’ complaint from the Mayor, it should stop spending so much. Walker’s comment came during a council debate kicking of a review of where council could get more funding from. Rudman’s views came in his…

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Shrinking dollar

Work On Funding Auckland’s Growth Has Just Started

Council’s Finance Committee has initiated an ‘alternative financing” review. The objectives are completely reasonable: – reduce the proportion of council revenue funded from rates – maximise the return on council’s investments – explore alternative sources of financing – review the holding of assets that are poorly aligned with council’s core business and/or the broader strategic growth priorities for Auckland.” But this is another example of the sort of work that…

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Assets

We Are…Not Loved

Kevin Roberts, global marketing guru and kiwi export, spoke at the recent Local Government New Zealand conference. His company, Saatchis, has developed LGNZ’s masterbrand campaign “We are” (so hopefully we got his talk for free!). He’s an irresistible and compelling speaker, but essentially his message was that despite much of what councils do being essential work (roads, parks, other infrastructure), the results of the recent reputation survey showed councils “We…

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We are

What Value Do We Get From Rates?

A big reason why there is so much focus on and concern with the amount of rates we all pay, is because we don’t really see what value we get for it. And, despite a lot of effort, Council often doesn’t help much with this. Headline graphics like the adjacent focus too regularly and too exclusively on the amounts. Other summaries talk about the billions of dollars spent on this…

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Do Less To Solve Homelessness And Achieve More

In October last year there were 147 living homeless in central Auckland city. 13 agencies, who have been part of the Auckland Homeless Steering Group, contributed to a research report earlier this year on these rough sleepers. The agencies group comprised 8 Government departments, 3 private social service agencies, 1 private company and 1 council. In 2010, under old Auckland city, the same agencies signed a 5 year Memorandum of…

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But Aren’t My Rates High Enough?

Much of the debate around the Mayor’s one vote budget win last week was on the level of rate increases, and the headline 9.9% average residential increase. It’s reasonable that media and other commentators focus on this as consumer inflation (currently virtually zero) is only forecast to be 1.6% next year. Although Council’s rate of inflation is higher (because of the different mix of goods and services it buys), council…

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Rates by local board

Creative Consultation

If you look hard in the image to the side you may see the one sentence in the 16 page Long Term Plan document which was sent to all households which referred to the possibility of a targeted rate for transport being set. In case you can’t see it, it’s here: In this document, everyone who received and read it (usually no more than 50% of people) were directed to…

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Consult

Undecided About Abstinence

Wikipedia provides a helpful outline of what an abstention is (in a political context), and what the classic reasons/justifications are for it. Of course it’s commonly considered a protest vote when a politician doesn’t want to support an issue (a budget say) because of a particular problem they have with it or part of it (eg. the decisions aren’t the ones that were consulted on, or they run counter to…

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Abstain

Why is 10 The Magic Number?

10 “regional amenities” in Auckland have a privileged status. They were part of a pre-amalgamation deal with the then warring councils of Auckland to agree a funding approach to groups that generally provided a benefit outside their city or district boundaries. The 10 organisations comprise 6 “arts and culture” groups (including the Maritime Museum and the Auckland Festival) and 4 “safety and rescue” bodies (including the Rescue Helicopter and the…

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Amenities

Let The Deputy Mayor Take Over?

Budget blues, ports’ problems, stadium strife. Perhaps it’s time for Len Brown to take leave to let his Deputy Penny Hulse try and build a consensus on the issues currently dividing Auckland Council and the Auckland community. Mayor Brown took a month off in September/October last year and his deputy was praised for the job she did. Penny Hulse has been at the heart of a range of difficult issues…

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PH

It’s 8 Weeks For A Quick Response At Auckland Council

As Auckland Council was being established in late 2010, a national organisation approached council to offer a partnership/investment opportunity. The legacy Auckland City Council had made the decision to buy a local sports park to help with playing field demands in the area. This sporting body had a plan, it had organisational credibility, and access to funding. Locally, there was also interest from sporting groups in the area – whose…

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Getting Growth With Good Character

A city the size of Gisborne is moving to Auckland each year. This means we need to build around 12,000 new homes annually – and we are well behind this as last week’s OECG report showed. As the graph indicates, only once in the last eleven years has our projected building consents demand actually been reached. The report also criticised what it called “community resistance to rezoning and densification” and…

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Permits

What’s The Economic Progress Been?

The last update on Auckland Council’s Economic Development Strategy web page was in late 2013. There’s an encouragement to sign up to the quarterly Chief Economist update’s – but the most recent of these is not included. In a separate section there is page on Growing Our Local Economy. This talks about Draft Economic Action Plans being complete for the Franklin, Orākei, Waitematā and Whau Local Board areas. Final plans…

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You Get Community Ownership If You Let The Community Own It

At the start of 2014, Len Brown set out six priorities (to get Auckland moving). Perhaps thinking of the significant work needed to prepare the draft Long Term Plan, number 4 on the list was: Create a sense of community ownership. He said: “There was a lot to do in the first three years of Auckland’s amalgamation. And in some cases we moved forward without taking our communities with us”….

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Community

How Long Will We Have To Wait?

There’s a debate among people who think about this how much benefit cities get from running big events. Some say the cost benefit studies produce what you want them to say. Others say they never take account of alternatives and are often overstated. The enthusiasts say they are an essential part of driving our economy and our marketability. Whatever you think, if you are visiting Auckland for the current Under…

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Let Locals Help Build The City We Need

Only a tiny number of resource consents are actually notified. In April, Auckland Council received around 1,200 consent requests and it notified that month only 60. Yet, these contested consents consume a significant amount of time, cost and effort. And for all those that get notified, there are many more not notified that locals would have liked to comment on. But increasing number of contested consent hearings is not the…

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Rmuera

A new plan for Auckland: smarter growth, more with less, support for change

Cities have been around for thousands of years. Athens may have had a population of 300,000 in the 4th century BC. Yet their rate of growth has been increasingly significantly in more recent times and the World Health Organization estimates that 70 percent of the global population will live in cities and towns by 2050, up from just 50 percent today. Unsurprisingly, there has comparable growth in city-research, city studies…

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Local Groups Must Fundraise For Unitary Plan Submissions

Parnell Heritage and the Waitemata Local Board last night launched a new history of an Auckland icon: “Parnell Baths: A jewel in Auckland’s crown”. Authors Sue Monk and Dr Joanna Boileau spoke passionately about their project to a large crowd collected at Parnell Library on a cold, wet winter evening. At the end of the evening, Parnell Heritage Co-Chair Mary Barry encouraged everyone to spend the $20 to buy the…

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Parnell

Delivering Better Community Value

Auckland’s Regional Facilities Company must have a sense of irony. The top two items its latest quarterly report’s Key Deliverables section are the Stadiums Strategy and the new Whitewater Park being built in Manukau. I’ve commented previously how the Stadiums Strategy remains marooned because of the Mayor’s absent leadership. However the ratepayer funded whitewater endeavour is experiencing no such calm. Two years ago, Auckland Council voted to grant $20 million…

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Rafting

Build Strong Private Sector And Government Relations

Greg Clarke is an internationally regarded adviser on cities and he has visited New Zealand several times to provide guidance on Auckland’s development. In a speech recently (article link at the bottom) he praised Manchester city in the UK for the role its private leadership was playing and for the city’s effectiveness in building relations with Central Government which have seen more resources provided to the city to help its…

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Rail Reliability Needs A Solution

Last month’s rail punctuality stats tell a sobering story. The issue is not just the plunge since December caused by computer, braking and staffing issues associated with the new electric trains – although this is serious. The bigger problem is the inconsistent punctuality over the last two years. As the graph shows, there is no more than a two month period of improving punctuality – before it drops. Although usually…

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Rail

Super City dropping the ball in Otahuhu

The Otahuhu community has a powerful dynamo leading their business association and a supportive local board, but the Auckland Council group is failing this community at some basic levels. Although regional plans for the Otahuhu bus rail interchange are progressing, a walk around the streets with the Business Association Manager shows street gardens untendered, broken pavement, missing guttering etc etc. What’s the point in spending $25m on a new interchange…

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trees

Stadiums Strategy Needs Leadership

Three years ago Mayor Len Brown supported the release of a discussion document on better organising Auckland’s four main stadiums: QBE Stadium, Western Springs, Eden Park and Mt Smart. He noted the potential for efficiencies and savings as a result of a coordinated focus. Three years on at last night’s Mission Bay & Kohimarama Residents Association AGM, in response to a strong challenge from a status quo supporter, he said…

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Stadium

Auckland’s growth planning remains unresolved

Last night’s Milford Residents Association AGM contained a sobering reflection on the still unresolved tensions with growth planning in Auckland. A strong local residents group raised tens of thousands of dollars to fight the Milford Mall development plans. The developer NZ Retail Property Group would have spent more arguing its case. A compromise (of sorts) was decided by the Environment Court, but that’s not where Auckland’s growth plans should be…

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combined

More than 40% of Aucklanders struggle to make ends meet

Over 40% of Aucklanders don’t have enough money to meet every day needs or say they only just do. So says Stats NZ’s just released two-yearly NZ General Social Survey. This further makes the point that a 10% rates increase will be a big deal for many Aucklanders. Better (and perhaps surprising) news is we have the lowest percentage of people with poor health, and the highest with excellent health….

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Transport in Auckland needs more than a “quick-fix”

Top priority transport projects in many parts of Auckland remain unaddressed by this “quick-fix”. This includes making Tamaki Drive safer and more people friendly. As the first big decision of the next 10 year budget, it reveals how much is missing. Genuine, community driven prioritising would have given us a much better result. NZHerald

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South Auckland Business Associations speak of poor and declining council support

Service level reductions in parts of council’s operation have been a reoccurring theme since Auckland Council was established. At this week’s Economic Committee meeting the Otahuhu Business Association commented that it employs a full-time handy-person because of the poor standards of Auckland Council’s preferred suppliers. Wiri Business Association says requests to Auckland Council for rubbish collection can now take up to 10 days to be actioned. Council can better afford…

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You can’t just pick the feedback you like

Today’s Council Finance committee considers how Long Term Plan feedback drove decisions for the extra transport spending (the table below showed submitters asking for more investment in public transport and cycling). While more spending in these areas is positive, two other tables/graphs from LTP feedback didn’t appear in Budget decision making papers. These show and overwhelming number of people wanted reductions in the Governance and Economic and Cultural parts of…

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RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATIONS VOICE CONCERN OVER COUNCIL BUDGET

“Misled”, “Not Happy”, “Devious”, “Not acceptable”. Mike Walsh from the St Heliers Glendowie residents’ association and others voice concerns around the Mayor’s 10% average rates increase. The budget will be confirmed by the Mayor and 20 councillors next month. NZ Herald

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Transport Rate Needed Better Thinking And Engagement

The Mayor’s claim that Aucklanders were told “clearly” about a possibly transport rate isn’t true. There was one sentence in the 16 page household summary, no numbers and it wasn’t one of the “7 ticks” we were asked to give. In the 64 page overview, which hardly anyone saw, there was a paragraph but the number mentioned was $59 per year not $114. shapeauckland.co.nz

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Absent port study makes leading difficult

Some irony with this headline. The way for Council to both protect views (and the Auckland economy) was for the Mayor’s 2013 promise of a wider Ports’ impact study to have been completed by now. And for this to be leading decision making, rather than ratepayer funded court interpretations and Proposed Unitary Plan policy gyrations. Link

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Libraries back-flip also not justified

You wouldn’t know it from the resolution, but there’s been an astonishing reversal in the Mayor’s plan to cut library hours. Len chose to hear the feedback against this plan, but remarkably officers came back with an alternative which actually INCREASES library hours for many (but increases penalties/fees to compensate). This looks a better outcome but, like the proposed cut, isn’t justified by demand evidence and wasn’t consulted on.

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Auckland’s getting a new transport rate – despite not having been asked for it, or having supported it.

Hardly anyone supported a new targeted rate for transport because…they weren’t asked to. Only 50% supported the expensive and poorly justified Auckland Plan transport option… and 50% something else. There is a lot of support for fixing transport and I think we need to spend much better than we do – but the Mayor didn’t give Aucklanders credible options for either. Link

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How To Grow The Port Remains Unresolved

Todays 8/8 tie on the Ports extension which the Mayor had to break doesn’t end this saga. A forced compromise doesn’t make for a better decision. Link

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Not What Aucklanders Wanted

Just saying it doesn’t make it true. The Mayor is dreaming if he thinks an average residential rates increase of (probably) around 8% and the new transport rate is “basically exactly what Aucklanders wanted”. 80% said they wanted an increase below 3.5% and only 27% wanted to pay for additional transport spending via rates. Link

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Mayor’s new rates increase almost the same as Christchurch (Have we missed the earthquake?)

The Mayor rates increase for Auckland is now almost the same as that planned for Christchurch (10%). Did I miss the earthquake? Len Brown proclaims how successful the LTP budget consultation has been with the ‘largest ever’ number of Aucklanders submitting. But 80% of these people wanted a rates increase BELOW 3.5%. Link

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Ports’ explanation of expansion plans comes late

Ports of Auckland’s placed an opinion piece in the NZ Herald this morning explaining their reasons for the expansions they are planning. However neither Auckland Council Investments Limited (Council’s port’s holding company) nor the Ports themselves mentioned anything like this in their 2014 annual reports/reviews. Below is the most recent ACIL reporting to the end of December. There are references to “POAL is actively engaged in being a good neighbour…

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Council’s review of council controlled companies found wanting

In light of “services” issues this week with Auckland Transport, ACIL (Ports of Auckland) and ATEED I wonder if the Mayor and councillors are reflecting on their decision last November on the CCO Review. Apart from the proposed Waterfront/Property merger, we are now in the “enhanced status quo” phase of the review to consider improvements in the way we ‘work together’. Elected member feedback in our annual survey last year…

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Opposition to rates increases grows

Week 4 of the 10 year budget consultation. Opposition to the 5.6% residential rates increase (3.5% overall) has grown to 79%. 4,800 responses to date. Biggest cut recommend in the $610m per year Governance budget. #shapeauckland.co.nz

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State of weymouth walkway highlights council service standards issues

Campbell Live’s update last night on the shocking state of the Weymouth Walkway last night got itself a bit confused. The key issue is whether the Auckland Council parks service standard is good enough. Is actually checking on the walkway once a quarter good enough? With a full tidy up annually? These service standards have been under pressure already and will fall further if the Mayor and councilors vote for…

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Check your actual rates increase here. it’s going to be higher than 3.5% for Many

The Auckland version of Rob Stock’s graph is missing from the Long Term Plan consultation material. However, you can check what your proposed rates increase will be on the rates calculator link below. Be prepared: it’s not going to be the 3.5% the LTP material refers. http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/ratesbuildingproperty/ratesvaluations/yourrates/Pages/ratesguide20152016.aspx

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Final week of 10 year budget consultation

It’s the final week of the 10 year budget consultation. Here are the numbers: 7,710 submissions (double last time – but still very low Auckland-wide); 80% want lower than a 3.5% increase and 52% vs 41% oppose the Mayor’s overall budget/investment plan; 54% support “investing more to address transport problems; 48% support some kind of motorway tolling.

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Auckland GDP is decline since Super City Council was established

The headline economic news is encouraging, but the “Auckland Plan” GDP target is real GDP growth of 5% year. You’ll see the trend over the first four years since Auckland Council was established is declining GDP. And in the 8 “Auckland Plan” economic target areas, 4 are tracking away from the target and 3 have no baseline data. We’re not having much of a discussion about economic growth with the…

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It’s time for a conversation about the Mayor

Actually, I think it’s time for a conversation about the Mayor. This somewhat astonishing opinion piece reads like it was written just after he was first elected. Not 4 1/2 years on. The Ports made a choice not to consult, and the Mayor hasn’t established an early warning culture both within council and within the CCO on key issues like this. The vacuum on leadership on this issue is larger…

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Mayor’s rates increase

Unfortunately with the Mayor’s proposed 6.5% average rates increase in Orakei and 5.2% in Devonport-Takapuna, the pressure on rents in these areas will get worse. Unless he reduces spending and looks at revising the Uniform Annual General Charge. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11425034

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Call for a new leadership

Mike Hosking calls for new leadership in Auckland in this morning’s NZ Herald (can’t see online). He’s not alone. Auckland is becoming more unaffordable, key transport problems remain unresolved and the city’s growth plans are unrealistic in many areas. Mike regrets not being more involved in local government issues including not voting last year (in the Orakei Local Board area!). Well the 10 year budget/road tolling debate coming in February…

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Len broke his promises

The Gulf News takes Len to task for the promises he made in 2010 that “local boards be at the heart of democracy in Auckland not fighting for scraps from the council table’. Interesting the Local Government Commission has also seen Mayor Brown’s broken promise and is proposing legally stronger local boards for Wellington.

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A slight increase in quality for a $6.9 billion spend

At Thursday’s final meeting of the year, the Mayor and councilors will approve the draft 10 year budget and also Auckland Transport’s goal of seeking to “transform and elevate customer focus and experience”. The target here, however, is to move customer satisfaction with roads from the current 71% to 70% in every year of the next 10! The footpath “elevated customer experience” is more challenging. It aims to take current…

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