New Zealand's new mayors on the biggest challenges after 100 days in office

Rayssa Almeida and Lucy Xia for RNZ

It has been 100 days since the country's newly-elected mayors rolled up their sleeves and started working on their campaign promises.

But many of those who took over are facing old challenges and inheriting systemic issues.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown was not available for an interview to reflect on his first 100 days in office - a continuation of his unavailability for media interviews since he assumed office.

Some Aucklanders said they would have liked to see more action from the mayor on urgent issues such as public transport and crime, beyond the mayor's criticisms of the leadership of council-controlled organisations.

Rimi from Manurewa said she wanted to see the mayor translate words into action.

"It is becoming more unsafe walking in the city, and as a mayor I don't see him taking a hard stance or doing anything to alleviate all those issues.

"Also, public transport is really not great - the frequency or even the rail network, and I know he has some grand words to say about it, but honestly I've seen no action," she said.

Others were concerned the mayor had not been engaging enough with ordinary people.

A 60-year-old resident from Herne Bay, Bill, said Brown needed to up his game in terms of communication.

"I don't think he's been communicating very well with average people; you hardly ever hear a word from him through the media.

"I think he thinks he's in a CEO role rather than a mayor role and he needs to communicate more with the public."

However, some said they agreed with the mayor's approach to budget cuts and looked forward to what he had to offer as the term progressed.

CBD worker Allen, who owns a home in East Auckland, said he was glad to see the mayor prioritise ratepayers in his budget proposal.

"He's impressed me so far... I think he's prioritised ratepayers and that's been a nice change from the previous administration, he said.

In December, the mayor's budget proposal included over $130 million in operational savings to plug a budget gap of $295m, with rates increases of 4.66 percent.

The below-inflation rates increase was good news for some, but others were concerned about the impact of funding cuts for community initiatives.

Twenty-year-old student Xavier Walsh, who was at the council's budget meeting last month to protest the potential shut down of Kauri Kids early childcare education centres, said they were worried about the repercussions of budget cuts on key community initiatives.

"We know that that's where a lot of the good work happens, if we didn't have local boards pushing local initiatives, Auckland wouldn't be the vibrant city it is today," they said.

Massey University's associate professor in politics Grant Duncan, said while there was no nice way of cutting budgets, he thought the mayor could have done a better job of explaining the cuts to the public.

"We really look to the mayor to give a clear and rational explanation as to why some of those difficult decisions are being made, so I think the important thing for Mayor Brown is to improve his style of communication with the public to restore some confidence."

Duncan said Brown's blunder in speculating about a new terminal for Auckland Airport at the council budget meeting last month may have eroded public confidence in his capacity for governance and stewardship of public assets.

"I personally think that he owed an apology to Auckland International Airport and to the stock exchange for causing them some minor panic and inconvenience.

"And he never, so I wasn't aware, issued an apology. And not only that, but also to the public, because he was essentially talking-down the value of a public asset that he himself was proposing selling," he said.

Through a statement, a spokesperson from Brown's office said he had very clearly communicated a large amount of complex information within the short time allotted to draft the mayoral proposal, which was passed 20-1 by the council's governing body in December.

"The reasons why some of these difficult decisions need to be made will be expanded on and debated through public consultation on the draft annual budget in March," it said.

Brown's spokesperson also said the mayor had already addressed the Auckland Airport issue in the media.

"And the public will be hearing much more from Mayor Brown on his first 100 days in office in the near future."

'It has been a challenge for sure'

Meanwhile, in Gore, New Zealand's youngest-ever mayor Ben Bell said building relationships within the council had slowed down his plans.

"My plan for the first 100 days during the campaign was to get in and get on top of things, specifically financially and different projects. But that's definitely been delayed," he said.

"I didn't realise that relationship-building is really the key for getting things done.

"With the previous mayor being here for 18 years - that was a lot of just getting used to having someone new at the house, and then working with all other personalities around the table, that has been a challenge for sure.

"The council has been working through those issues now and I'm ready to crack into this new year," Bell said.

In Rotorua, mayor Tania Tapsell said tackling the over-use of emergency housing was the biggest challenge of her first 100 days in the job.

"We've now locked in an exit strategy so our community of Rotorua and the many people that enjoy visiting us now know that we are not only significantly reducing - by up to 20 - the motels that we have for emergency housing but actually it means that our community feels a lot safer as well."

She said community safety was one of the council's top priorities.

"That was one of our commitments in the first 100 days and I'm happy to share that we had a significant reduction of anti-social issues within our CBD, but also surrounding businesses and neighbourhoods where emergency housing has been present."

In Christchurch, mayor Phil Mauger said it had been great to get his feet under the table.

"It's certainly been a learning curve but I'm feeling settled and ready to take on the year ahead.

"A major achievement for me has been the unanimous support of the council for roving maintenance crews to tidy up our city's footpaths.

"This was something I campaigned on and it's great to have the council's support to get this underway," he said.

Mauger said the council had two big questions on the agenda for the next 100 days:

"The first will be drafting and consulting on our annual plan at a time when we are up against the rising costs of inflation, insurance and interest rates.

"The second will be considering our next steps on the government's forced housing intensification rules - we will have to decide what we want to do and if we want to notify a plan change."

RNZ also contacted Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau and Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate for this story, both of whom were on holiday and not available for interviews.