New Zealand

Phil Goff insulting councillors, says former aide

A member of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff's inner circle says councillors should have open access to a $1 million pre-feasibility report on a potential $1.5 billion downtown stadium.

The pre-feasibility report by PwC found a stadium with a capacity of 55,000 spectators for rugby, rugby league and football and 65,000 for concerts could be built in the central city for between $1.1b and $1.5b.

I think we should have a right to look at that report and be treated on an equal footing with the mayor


Goff, who said greater transparency and accountability would be a feature of his mayoralty, has imposed strict conditions on councillors viewing the report, sparking three councillors to lodge complaints with the Ombudsman.

In a further development, a former political adviser to the mayor when he was in Parliament, James Bews-Hair, has criticised Goff's behaviour over the report and "his peculiar obsession with a waterfront stadium monument to his leadership".

In the monthly news sheet "Town Hall", Bews-Hair said the decision of Goff to only allow councillors to see an unredacted version of the PwC report under the supervision of his staff "is an affront to the character and honesty of councillors, downright insulting".

The matter, Bews-Hair said, had become "messy, unnecessary and completely avoidable".

Having reflected on the earlier rules for viewing the report, councillors have been informed by email that copies of the unredacted version of the report are being made available "as a gesture of goodwill" on the condition the reports are not copied, kept in a secure location and returned after being read.

It is understood one of the reasons for redacting part of the reports relates to five potential sites in the city to protect the commercial position of the landowners.

Hulse said she had some sympathy with landowners who want to protect their land values.

"However, I think we should have a right to look at that report and be treated on an equal footing with the mayor.

"That comes with responsibility, however, and we have had some pretty bad experiences with reports that are confidential ending up in the hands of the media within half an hour," said Hulse, who chairs the environment committee and is the former deputy mayor.

Hulse said she had not seen the report and is waiting for the process to die down to read an unredacted copy.

Watson told the Herald that Goff was assuming the role of elected representative and chief executive in limiting councillors easily accessing something of interest to the public.

"The mayor ... is just an elected representative.

"It is getting in the realm of ridiculous. It is become like a KGB spy flick.

"In the scheme of correct protocol, it should be dealt under the oversight of the chief executive not the mayor."

Despite an unredacted version of the report being offered to councillors, none were yet to read it because of the conditions being demanded, he said.

Councillors had outlined their concerns to Goff on numerous occasions but that had fallen on "deaf ears", he said.

"He has been caught out. He has known about this report for nearly a year, we only heard about it because the media put in a LGOIMA [Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request].

"This report has cost $1 million and has been out for nearly a year. It's to do with a $1.5 billion stadium. It is very much in the interest of the public.

Councillors Cathy Casey and Efeso Collins made complaints to the Ombudsman about the mayor's behaviour.

Casey said she, Collins and Watson did not accept the latest imposed restrictions.

"We are elected representatives, just like the mayor.

"He has no more right of access than we have. In our three wards alone we represent nearly 500,000 Aucklanders," Casey said.

Collins said he was totally dismayed by the "heavy handed behaviour".

"You'd think this report put our national security at risk with all these caveats in place."

The three councillors confirmed they would formally contact the Ombudsman tomorrow to discuss the unnecessary set of restrictions.

Goff has been contacted for comment.

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