Candidates square off at Auckland mayoral debate

Candidates square off at Auckland mayoral debate

Auckland's mayoral hopefuls have squared off in the first candidates' debate in Ellerslie this evening.

The six contenders are Labour MP Phil Goff, businesswoman Vic Crone, activist Penny Bright, business executive Mark Thomas, retail manager Stephen Berry and former Green Party member David Hay.

Each had two minutes to persuade a packed Ellerslie community hall to elect them as mayor.

Forty-two-year-old Vic Crone, who has business experience in IT and communications, announced her candidacy late last year and is considered a front runner along with Phil Goff.

In her opening address, she spoke about creating a better Auckland for her two daughters.

"Do you agree that it's time to take real action and address the traffic congestion issues around Auckland that is costing us $1.5 billion every year?

"Are you curious as to why staff council costs are going up so much? [There are] 11,500 people in council now and $62 million over budget in the most recent financial year," she says.

Mr Goff says he decided to run for mayor for an opportunity to make a difference.

"I want to help make Auckland the place that is innovative, entrepreneurial, interesting, that retains the best and the brightest of young New Zealanders and attracts the best people from overseas," he says.

He said if he was mayor, a light rail system would be his priority.

"It's something that has to happen," Mr Goff says. "There is no funding for it. I think what we've got to look at is a public private partnership because that's the only place that I can see the money coming from."

The idea was rubbished by Mr Thomas.

"How can you on the one hand, say you want to be fiscally responsible, and then on the other hand come up with a plan where there's no business plan that's been approved and no funding?"

Mr Berry said the system is on the way out.

"I think people may have been in politics too long when they're harking back to 1966 technologies as the way to the future for our transport solutions."

Local body elections will be held in October.