The centre-right Auckland Future campaign for the Auckland local body elections is saying Phil Goff has changed his political spots and that he is using money from the city’s Chinese community to win a centre-left majority on the Council.

The former Labour leader  has always said that he was campaigning as an independent.

Even his hoardings were blue.

But Auckland Future’s spokesperson, Denise Krum, says he is now trying to win a centre-left majority on the Council, and he is using his own Mayoral campaign war chest to do this.

Goff has recently raised around $400,000 from Auckland’s Chinese community.

Over the weekend there was a big mail out in the Waitemata ward for a long time left wing local body politician, Mike Lee, who is being challenged by media personality Bill Ralston, who is standing for the centre right.

The mail out featured Goff and Lee and advised voters to select them as well as the rest of the City Vision ticket standing for the local board and the District Health Board.

 Goff told POLITIK that this was City Vision endorsing him; not the other way round.

“I’m running as an independent, but I have no objection to any other grouping endorsing me should they think I’m the best candidate,” he said.

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But Krum believes that Goff’s campaign financed the City Vision mail out.

“A few centre-left Council candidates now look like they are getting some serious support,” she said.

Goff told POLITIK that his endorsement of the candidates was simply because he was “happy to be photographed with any good candidate.”

But Krum says it is not who Goff is seen with that she is talking about.

“It;’s about the sharing of resources so the idea and notion that there’s a complete independence is disingenuous.”

The centre right’s problem is that its candidate for Mayor, Victoria Crone, is unlikely to win.

A poll commissioned by Derek Handley’s non-profit Aera Foundation showed Goff on 52% among decided voters and Crone on only 15%.

Senior National Ministers have long been resigned to Goff winning the Mayoralty but had always bargained on the centre-right — both Auckland Future and other centre-right candidates — winning a majority on the Council.

Ministers believe this is critical if they are to get the Council to address the serious funding gap that the Auckland Transport Alignment Project shows exists over the building of transport infrastructure in the city.

It is no secret that the Cabinet believes the Council should start to sell down assets to fund that gap.

That is opposed by City Vision Councillors and Goff who says he would not sell shares in Auckland Airport or Watercare Services nor would he sell port land and would not contemplate selling the port business until its long-term future was resolved.

Instead, he wants a region-wide petrol tax which Transport Minister Simon Bridges has dismissed as a not a starter.

But now Auckland Future sees Goff leading a charge to have City Vision win control of the Council.

He is assisted in this by some substantial fund raising that he has recently done within the Chinese community pulling in $250,000 at one recent fund raising auction.

And Krum and Auckland Future say that this has gone into the war chest he is using to fund the City Vision candidates

Goff whose original campaign signs were blue has also now reverted to Labour-red for his latest signs, and he has been campaigning alongside well known Auckland labour identities like Greg Presland.

There are people within National, spoken to by POLITIK, who worry that if Goff succeeds in getting a centre-left Council, then Auckland will be stuck with the kind of impasse around the Council table that has been evident over the past three years.

If this were to be the case, say the sources, then the electorate might blame the Government for failing to solve Auckland’s problems, p[articualrly its traffic congestion, and National could pay at the ballot box next election.

Meanwhile, Goff, confident of winning the Mayoralty, is now clearly trying to win total control of the Council.

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