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Goff vows to restore public faith in Auckland Council

Radio New Zealand Radio New Zealand 8/10/2016 Todd Niall
Phil Goff © Phil Walter/Getty Images Phil Goff

The veteran Labour MP will become the second mayor of the merged Auckland super-city, replacing Len Brown, who served for six years. 

He will lead a council with some new faces but no apparent political shift, in an election with a low turnout that may only just top 38 percent.

Mr Goff polled 179,206 votes with about 95 percent of the count done, with centre-right contender Vic Crone on 105,413, and Chloe Swarbrick a distant third on 26,474.

Aged 22, Ms Swarbrick was the youngest contender, and spent less than $8000 on her campaign.

The 2013 runner-up John Palino polled fourth with 21,398, while Mark Thomas received 9170 votes and veteran activist Penny Bright 6577.

In a victory speech before supporters, Mr Goff pledged to tackle homelessness, the housing crisis and restore public confidence in the council.

He said the 'Yes Minister' syndrome - drawn from a British television comedy in which civil servants manipulate the politicians - reached its peak in local government, and getting rid of it would be his first message to council management.

"Decisions made by the council will be the decisions from the elected representatives.

"We will listen to the advice of our political advisors but the decisions have to be those made by those held accountable by the public and not simply rubber-stamping what officials put before them," he told supporters.

He referred to a survey of Aucklanders carried out by the council that found only 17 percent of 3015 respondents trusted the council to make the right decision and only 15 percent said they were satisfied with its performance.

"I think the first priority that I have as mayor is to work to restore the confidence of the people of Auckland in their council - 15 percent trust and satisfaction in our council is a failure," he said.

The runner-up, Vic Crone, did not rule out standing in the next election, saying she was encouraged by the strong support from voters.

Ms Crone received about 105,000 votes (28 percent) compared to Mr Goff who received more than 179,000 (48 percent). Her share of the vote was well above polling conducted by The Spinoff website, which placed her on 11 percent support last month.

She said she knew the result would be closer than many predicted.

"Unfortunately local body elections are still predominantly about name recognition, not actually about who is the candidate and what do they offer," Ms Crone said.

"Part of me standing was to try to start to change the agenda ... and absolutely, I'll have a think about running again."

Auckland mayoral runner-up Vic Crone said she would consider running again in 2019. © RNZ / Leilani Momoisea Auckland mayoral runner-up Vic Crone said she would consider running again in 2019.

She would be watching Mr Goff closely to ensure he fulfilled his election promises, she said. 

Third-placed Chloe Swarbrick said it was unfortunate that the mayoral campaign had been "pegged as a two-horse race from the beginning".

"I think that's a little disappointing for democracy."

However, she had "a lot of respect" for Mr Goff, having got to know him over the course of campaigning, she said.

"Both him and David Hay have driven me to a few debates because I don't have a car.

"I believe he will do a good job - I just hope he's willing and able to make those... decisions that may be a little bit more polarising, because Auckland needs strong leadership right now."

Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick at her election day party at Ponsonby bar Golden Dawn © RNZ / Leilani Momoisea Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick at her election day party at Ponsonby bar Golden Dawn

Upsets but little change round council table

Upsets on the 20-seat council included senior councillor Penny Webster being defeated by Greg Sayers in the northern rural Rodney Ward, and Calum Penrose ousted by Daniel Newman in Manurewa-Papakura.

In an undecided race in the North Shore ward, Richard Hills leads Grant Gillon by just 71 votes for the second of two seats, with Chris Darby retaining his seat.

The result is a blow for the hopes of National Party stalwarts who hoped the new region-wide Auckland Future ticket could help secure a centre-right majority on the council.

The only candidate to succeed was existing councillor Denise Krum, who joined the newly-formed ticket early this year.

The group's formation had been led by Auckland National MP's Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith.

Accordingly, the council's political make-up was little changed, with the upsets in Rodney and Manurewa-Papakura replacing generally right-leaning councillors with similar newcomers.

National already eyeing Mt Roskill seat

Phil Goff's election as mayor means he will vacate the Mt Roskill electorate seat he has held in Parliament for 30 years.

Hours after the results were announced, the National Party said it would open nominations to select its candidate for the upcoming Mt Roskill by-election next week.

"I understand Mr Goff intends to resign on Tuesday or Wednesday" National Party president Peter Goodfellow said.

National would run a "short but robust" selection process, with a candidate to be chosen by 19 October.

The Green Party has already said it would not contest the seat, saying it was focused on campaigning for the party vote at next year's general election.

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