Nine Councillors including Daniel Newman of the Papakura-Manurewa Ward signed the letter which raised concerns about Phil Goff’s leadership style and expressed formally their concerns around the report into a proposed downtown stadium.
The letter was shared with media, however in Phil Goff’s response, he said had not been made aware of the letter.
“Dear Councillors,” the letter read, “Thank you for your letter, marked private and confidential but which I received after its content had been given to the New Zealand Herald yesterday.”
Mayor Goff went on to say he was briefed by Regional Facilities Auckland, on the work they had PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) do on the stadium in July and October of last year. “I did not request copies of the report done at that time because I did not want the stadium to be a distraction from the key infrastructure investment we needed to address as a priority in the Long Term Plan.”
“I am happy to discuss these issues with you personally or collectively at any time and work with you to produce outcomes that benefit our city and the people we represent,” Mayor Goff wrote in his response.
Deputy Mayor and Franklin Ward Councillor Bill Cashmore, who did not sign the letter, said, “Mention was also made around the non-inclusive leadership style. There are dissatisfied councillors around our table and we have been and will continue to work for a more inclusive atmosphere and more importantly better relationships.”
He said during the term they had tried several ideas to have open discussion with the whole council body. “Meetings with council staff leaders in my office failed to attract more than five or six councillors at any one time. We are next going to try an open round table discussion.”
Mayor Goff said, “Political decisions do create division and controversy at times, but all of us should acknowledge the need for tolerance, courtesy and working in the best interests of our community. A positive and constructive working environment requires a common commitment to achieving this. I am committed to this but it is a two-way street.” He said he was happy to discuss the issues with his councillors personally or collectively at any time, and work with them to produce outcomes that benefit the city and the people they represent.
See below for the letter sent to national media, followed by Mayor Phil Goff’s response:
See below for the full response from Mayor Phil Goff:
Thank you for your letter, marked private and confidential but which I received after its content had been given to the New Zealand Herald yesterday.
There are better ways to communicate than this and as you are aware my door is always open to Councillors to discuss any issues of concern to you.
Let me respond to the substantive issues in the letter.
During the 2016 election campaign I expressed the view that a city centre stadium was, in my opinion, an option that should be explored before expending hundreds of millions of dollars on structural changes needed in due course for Eden Park to be a world class national stadium. I expressed the view that we needed a thorough analysis of the options in a timely way so that when we needed to make a decision on the future of Eden Park it was a well-informed one. I was advised by Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) of the financial difficulties faced by Eden Park, and the limitations on using that stadium in a built up residential area to the extent it needed to be in order to make loan repayments and put money aside for depreciation.
On becoming Mayor, I asked RFA to do the work necessary for us to know what sites existed in the City centre that might ultimately be acceptable for a stadium and costs and feasibility of those sites. This was well reported in the media at the time including in March 2017 when the NZH and Newshub ran stories about it.
I was briefed by RFA on the work they had Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) do on the stadium in July and October of last year. I did not request copies of the report done at that time because I did not want the stadium to be a distraction from the key infrastructure investment we needed to address as a priority in the Long Term Plan.
I have consistently and publicly said that I will not make the stadiums issue a priority ahead of pressing needs in transport, housing and the environment, however we will need to start planning for a world class stadium for Auckland to replace Eden Park when it is necessary.
Discussion around potential funding for a stadium also needed to take place with Central Government which has a key role to play in funding a stadium needed for international events such as a Rugby World Cup. I had the opportunity only recently to discuss this matter with the Minister of Sport given the change in Government.
RFA received LGOIMAs around the report and after discussions between RFA, our legal and LGOIMA team, and the Ombudsman, these reports were released to the media in the redacted form which the Ombudsman had agreed to. I had no involvement in this process.
I made copies of the full reports immediately available to Councillors to read. To honour obligations to those who required confidentiality, the report was not circulated in an electronic form. In response to requests by Councillors, I was happy subsequently for Councillors to hold and to read the report in their offices.
Council staff advised me that the Ombudsman is satisfied with this arrangement and regards it as acceptable.
You raise concerns about leadership style. I am elected by the people of Auckland and I am directly accountable to them. However, I am committed to working collaboratively with all of you. My door is open to Councillors at any time. I have worked with many of you on issues that you have raised with me.
With the 10-year budget we worked together over numerous weeks on the mayoral proposal to accommodate as many requests as possible. I was pleased that the 10-year budget received unanimous support, in contrast to what happened three years ago. I do not chair meetings autocratically and work at being fair to everyone wishing to speak. However, the requirements under law and the expectations of the electorate are that I exercise leadership. After due consideration and consultation my responsibility is to make recommendations which you will not always agree with. That is the nature of my job and I don’t retreat from that responsibility.
Equally for any measure to pass Council requires the support of a majority of Councillors and I have in each case received that support.
My preference is to work to achieve a consensus of Councillors but each of you have your own opinions and vote accordingly and I respect that. The affirmation I read out before each Governing Body meeting I take seriously and ask every one of you to do likewise. Political decisions do create division and controversy at times, but all of us should acknowledge the need for tolerance, courtesy and working in the best interests of our community.
A positive and constructive working environment requires a common commitment to achieving this. I am committed to this but it is a two-way street.
I am happy to discuss these issues with you personally or collectively at any time and work with you to produce outcomes that benefit our city and the people we represent.