Phil Goff vs John Tamihere: Clashing visions for the future of Auckland

Mayoral front-runners Phil Goff and John Tamihere have gone head-to-head, telling Aucklanders why they'd be the best man for the job.

The local body elections are in October. Goff will be seeking a second term in charge of the country's biggest city, while his former Labour Party colleague John Tamihere looks set to be his toughest opponent.

"We get on okay," Goff told The AM Show. Tamihere, sitting to his left, would only say they are "acquaintances".

While they might have similar backgrounds politically, they were keen to emphasise their differences.

Goff, pitching himself as "reliable, trustworthy and hard-working", said his first three years as Mayor have seen the city make "real progress", but there remains a "long way to go".

"This is a fantastic city to live in - we know that because about 40,000 extra people come into the city each year. So it's about a big investment in infrastructure - so our transport system, our housing, protection of the environment keeps up with that growth in population."

Tamihere's vision is to roll back some of the changes which formed the super city a decade ago.

"The promise of amalgamation has not been delivered on. There are no efficiencies across 75 percent of the city that's run by council-controlled organisations. And so we're back to square one, 10 years ago. We need to reset the legislation in the city, have a new conversation about the way in which we devolve authority back to the local communities.

"It's all been centralised, and when you get centralisation, you get arrogance; and when you get arrogance, you take the public out of the service."

For example, Tamihere has promised to immediately sack the board of Auckland Transport, if elected. He'll also be "on a plane straight to Wellington to renegotiate and reset a number of things", including the regional fuel tax, saying the funding for the city's infrastructure had to come from central Government.

"It's got to be reduced because it's a discriminatory tax solely on this region."

Goff, who fought hard for the introduction of the 11.5c a litre tax, pointed out Tamihere's running mate - current Councillor Christine Fletcher - voted for it, and the Government wouldn't stump up the billions of dollars Auckland needs.

"His running mate said she'd push for [a fuel tax] all her political career... Christine's saying one thing, you're saying the opposite. You need to sort that one out."

Tamihere also hit out at NZTA's slow progress of two major roading projects in the city, saying there was a "cartel operating". He said work on the Southern Motorway between Takanini and Manurewa, and Lincoln Rd in the city's west, should be happening around the clock.

"They don't work 24/7 - they don't work on the weekends... they start work when we start work. They'll be lucky to work six hours a day."

Goff pointed out NZTA isn't run by Auckland Council, and said he'd been putting pressure on the Government to get the work done, saying he hadn't received an acceptable answer why they were taking so long.

"When it happens, it'll be good."

Goff and Tamihere.
Goff and Tamihere. Photo credit: The AM Show

Goff and Tamihere agreed the port has to go, but it will take decades. They also both backed the continuation of Auckland's Pride Parade, despite Tamihere's past comments on homosexuality as being "unhealthy and violating" and opposition to gay marriage.

They split on Eden Park, with Goff saying a CBD stadium "makes sense" in the long-term, but Tamihere saying we "can't afford it". The pair also disagreed on making Queen St car-free, with Goff in favour and Tamihere against.

"Auckland Transport has been their highly effective tool to carry out this anti-car strategy, and I'm going to put a stop to it," Tamihere said on Wednesday.

Boobs on Bikes also had them at odds.

"I'm not in favour of this. You've got kids around the city," said Goff.

"Oh goodness me - what do they get on their iPhones, you fool?" responded Tamihere, saying he had "no problem" with the controversial stunt, which was last held a few years ago.

As for whether they'd rather deal with a Labour or National Government, Goff unpredictably said Labour, while Tamihere - whose application to rejoin the party earlier this year was rejected - said he was in "no-man's land".

As for who should lead the National Party, Goff said it was a matter for the party membership, while Tamihere said: "Who cares?"

Voting begins in September, and ends on October 12. Other candidates so far include John Palino, Craig Lord and Joshua Love.