Two quite different stories on Auckland Council

In light of half the Auckland Council doing an open letter complaining about Phil Goff’s leadership, there have been two stories trying to explain why this happened.

The first is by Simon Wilson of the NZ Herald and the second by Tim Murphy in Newsroom.

I found it interesting how different they were. There was a small amount in common – that the withholding of the stadium report was the final straw.

The Newsroom story covered the following:

  • Enough of the sidelining, political manipulating, off-hand chairing of the big meetings and secrecy
  • Enough of the blindsiding of councillors with policies made public via favoured journalists
  • Enough of the favouritism of flunkies on the council who will never vote against Phil’s wishes
  • The Auckland Council is notorious for its secrecy
  • The council has been shown publicly to have deliberately subverted the Official Information Act in at least two instances
  • Goff was implicated in those delays
  • Calling out the high-handed reign of Goff.

So the Newsroom report makes very clear there are huge issues of culture and secrecy and Goff playing favourites.

Now the Herald report:

  •  It’s true they have a right to know what’s going on, but it’s also true that Goff has a duty of care with confidential information
  • Some are on the firm left of the political spectrum, others on the firm right. Some have a political outlook very close to Goff’s, but they just don’t seem to like him. A few of them are ambitious politicians.
  • Mike Lee … seems almost consumed by personal antagonism to Goff.
  • Wayne Walker and John Watson are … on a short fuse with Goff as well.
  • Sharon Stewart consistently opposes the mayor from the right.
  • Stewart has claimed she feels “bullied” by Goff but her example – that she was lobbied to vote for the regional fuel tax – is odd. Both Labour and National lobbied hard on that issue, and why not? It’s politics.
  • Two more rightist councillors, Greg Sayers and Daniel Newman, appear to have political and personal motives. They oppose Goff’s policies and both seem keen to position themselves as an opposition leader-in-waiting.
  • Fletcher is not big on teamwork.
  •  Fa’anānā Efeso Collins. He’s one of six members of the Labour Party on council, but he has drifted away from Goff and routinely votes against him now. That’s odd. Collins may want to become the leading next-generation leftist voice on council, or one day head to Parliament, but to do either he will need to find a way to work with his Labour colleagues.
  • Whatever the explanation, the council has a toxic culture problem and it’s the mayor’s job to be the adult in the room. He has to fix it.

So the Herald story goes through the nine Councillors and basically undermines them all directly or indirectly. Almost no examination of the culture issues complained about (except the report catalyst). Basically the Herald story implies:

  • Casey is the only honest critic
  • Lee, Walker and Watson just don’t like Goff
  • Stewart needs to harden up
  • Sayers and Newman have political motives
  • Fletcher is not a team player
  • Collins is also not a team player
  • Goff is the adult in the room

So you have the unprecedented step of half the Council complaining about the Mayor’s leadership style, and the Herald article manages to avoid any criticism of Goff at all, but snidely undermines all but one of his critics.

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