Outgoing Auckland Mayor Phil Goff steps down after two terms


Two-term Auckland mayor Phil Goff is hanging up the chains this election.

The former Labour leader and cabinet minister has spent more than 40 years in local and central politics.

Goff led the city through the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, locked horns with fellow councillors over the prospect of a waterfront stadium, fought for and got a regional petrol tax and a targeted rate for climate action.

The rumour is he won't be unemployed.

Outgoing Mayor Phil Goff told Checkpoint he was not quite ready to retire from work.

"I'll hang up my chains, I won't hang up my boots, I'm looking at finding other ways in which I can make a contribution in public life which I've done for such a long time."

After six years in office, Goff said he hoped Auckland was better off for having him as mayor.

He said notable achievements under his mayoralty included significant investment in the city's water infrastructure, the Central Interceptor to stop wastewater running into Auckland's harbours, building and rebuilding 100km of safe walking tracks to help in the fight against kauri dieback and efforts to work on the issue of climate change.

"We've had six years where I can measure the very real progress that we've made, we've had stable and I think sensible governance over the period of time, we've been fiscally responsible, we have hugely increased the investment we are making in our infrastructure."

Pushback against rising rates and certain council decisions was inevitable in a developing city but the need for investment over his terms had often outweighed these concerns, Goff said.

"I don't think it's ever been very different that people have said 'Look we'd like more and better services, more and better investment in infrastructure and by the way slash our rates', people say that but they know in their hearts that those two things are incompatible.

"I look at two elections results that I've fought and I've received an overwhelming mandate and I think I would get that mandate if I ran again."

Although he had the motivation to run for another term in office, he joked his wife would have divorced him had he made that choice.

Despite admitting an inkling of regret over that fact, he said he recognised the need for generational change in the council.

"You've got to have generational change, you've got to have people coming in that grew up in a different environment than I grew up in that have got fresh and new ideas but hopefully that will build on what we've done over these last six years."

As his final days in office run down, removing himself from his professional home for the last six years would be a challenge, he said.

"It is going to by the end of the week be a strange feeling... being right at the centre of action in council and being preoccupied 24 hours a day with the challenges we face as a city and by Saturday afternoon I won't be part of it.

"It's kind of a mixture of I suppose anticipated liberation on one hand but also of real sadness of leaving behind some really great people I've been working with and being able to make a difference for our city."

After 40 years of running in elections, Goff said it had already been strange not being involved in mayoral debates.

"I think last mayoral election there were 43 candidate debates that I participated in, I can't say I miss that entirely but I do miss and I will miss some of the cut and thrust debates and discussions around 'this is the problem we face now how do we find a solution to that'."

Goff disagreed with the premise that the role of the mayor was to act simply as a figurehead, saying the role's power of persuasion was necessary to the operation of a successful council.

He said he was proud of the work he had done in unifying council support on measures that would take the city forward.