What do you know about the nine candidates who are
contesting Dunedin's mayoral campaign in the 2013 local body
elections? Today, in the first part of a nine-part series,
Chris Morris puts the questions to Hilary Calvert.
Former Act New Zealand MP Hilary Calvert says the
Dunedin City Council needs to get out of the way and focus on
helping business succeed.
Ms Calvert, who is standing for mayor and a council seat,
said the city needed financial minds around the council
table, particularly with an influx of new councillors
expected after October 12.
The city needed to better understand its own finances before
deciding how best to spend its money, beginning with Wall
Street's value and including the earning potential of the
council's companies, she said.
Ms Calvert was standing after a brief stint in Parliament,
replacing former Act MP David Garrett, but hoped to draw
support from Dunedin's business community.
Why are you standing?
I'm standing because I'm concerned that ... if I and other
like-minded people weren't standing, the next council ...
[would not] have the finances of the city either under
control or as a priority. And I think the people of Dunedin
do have rates and finances and business as a priority -
business as in jobs.
What are the major issues facing the city now?
Finances that are unknown, but what we do know is that
they're out of control. Rates are going up faster than
inflation by a long way. In the last nine years, for example,
the CPI, on which a lot of people live ... [has] gone up 25%,
and the rates have gone up over 70%. We just can't keep doing
The council does an annual budget in public and publishes
an annual report. What's unknown about the finances?
The $100 million or so which is in the endowment fund says
that we've got $32.5 million [invested] in Wall Street. We
haven't. There's a piece of land there that they're not even
acknowledging is there ... so for the endowment fund, we know
that's not an accurate figure, because we know that piece of
land is missing.
Any other major issues?
Essentially, finances - and that includes rates rises and
things out of control - accountability, jobs, and
independence, which I think is really important. What we have
seen recently is we have had an agenda going on, which is
unaccountable financially and it's been captured by a group
that Greater Dunedin produces.
You get a couple of them [Greater Dunedin], in an
extraordinary move, seriously criticising the submission [on
the draft transport strategy] by the Chamber of Commerce,
with 1300 members, over 28,000 people employed by them, and
two of Greater Dunedin's people are out there, including the
mayor, saying they don't know what they are talking about and
they haven't read the draft transport strategy properly.
What would you do to address major issues, particularly
around council finances and job creation?
What we need to do is start by knowing what we can actually
expect our companies to earn - what we have actually got. If
we looked at those things we could make sure that we're
running things efficiently and that we're not holding on to
things that are costing us more than we're earning. Having
got to the bottom of that, we then can look at our priorities
and see if we've got any money to build bike tracks, or
whether we've got any money to do this, that and the other
thing. But we've got to start by knowing how much we've got.
Leaders of the city should be responsible financially and
should be talking to the employers and saying: 'What's
getting in [the] way of you employing that next person?' ...
There's all sorts of things it might be, but it's not for me
to tell businesses what's getting in their way. It's for us
to ask. Once we've asked, it's the council's job to get rid
of any impediments they can to people employing the next
What is your vision for the city and how would you make it
My vision for the city is for us to all know what position
we're in and to have the councillors accountable for the
decisions they make.
That doesn't sound like a grand, sweeping vision for what the
city might look like in 50 years' time.
I think being respectful and accountable to the people is
pretty visionary, and quite revolutionary in its own way. How
it looks like should be how the people want it, and we're not
getting it how the people want it at the moment, because
we're not at all responsive to them.
What strengths would you bring as mayor?
I would be prepared to be unashamedly job-orientated. I would
be prepared to say that I would balance the needs for keeping
the rates down with the needs for having our city vibrant and
getting on about its business and being environmentally
friendly. I would be prepared to be accountable for what I
did. I would not be telling people I could do things that I
couldn't do, and I would not be telling people as mayor that
I would be going out on a limb and saying I could do things
outside of what the council had agreed to and outside of
useful consultation. I am bold and fearless.
Has your time in Parliament helped?
I think so, because I think I understand better what you can
expect of other people. You can pretend all you like about
your visions and things, but some things are doable and some
things aren't ... so long as we don't have marginal seats we
will never have the sympathy or interest of central
What does that experience mean for Dunedin?
Dunedin needs to be a good city on its own. It needs to not
whinge to up north about whatever the thing of the moment is.
It needs to make its own destiny and it needs to be as frank
as it can be about what is possible to do, and to make sure
that we do the most important things that are possible.
Are you still a member of Act New Zealand?
I haven't actually looked to find out. I presumably aren't
because I don't think I've renewed in the last year.
Would you have any connections to the Act Party as a mayor
No. The Act Party is a party of principle, and what most
people who have ever been part of the Act Party have is an
allegiance to principles from the Act Party, rather than the
Will you be promoting Act's policies in Dunedin?
No, I will be promoting Act's principles. Not Act principles,
but the principles on which Act was founded. So not because
they were Act principles.
Do you still own the building that houses a brothel?
I have part-ownership of a building in which there is a
current church, I have part ownership of a building in which
there is a brothel, and I have part-ownership of a building
in which there is a bank. There's a variety of tenants of
buildings in this world. I'm the owner of buildings in which
things are carried out. I'm not the owner of a business -
either a bank, or a church, or a brothel.
What other community involvement have you had?
Probably the thing I'm proudest of in my life, apart from my
family, is the Otago Central Rail Trail. I was in it from
when it first started, as a trustee, through to three or four
It's been done by a lot of volunteer stuff ... it's the way
of doing things that I really like. I don't like it when an
official body that takes my taxes or my rates says: 'We will
do this to you and this is what we'll achieve'. It works much
better if you've got proper community involvement.
How are you funding your campaign?
My aunty's given my campaign some money, other people around
town have been giving me bits and pieces here and there, and
[my husband] Alistair [Broad] and I are funding it partially
How much do you expect to spend?
Probably between $10,000 and $15,000 all up.
And how much of that would be your own money?
Probably about $5000. That's just a guess at this point.
How would you describe your politics?
I think when you're using other people's money, especially
money you've demanded from them with menaces, that you should
be accountable to them, you should be respectful of the money
you've taken from them, and you should do the best thing, in
the best way, to achieve what the people have told you they
Who do you vote for nationally?
I've probably been fairly much round the block, I think. Hard
to know at the moment. Not the Greens, because they're not
prepared to pay for what they say they're going to do.
So you're not strictly an Act Party or a right-wing
If I'm anything, I'm a liberal. I think you constrain other
people only when necessary for the freedom of us all, and
every time you constrain people, the more you constrain them,
the more you have to have a really good reason ... if you
want people to be free to do what they choose to do, then
they have to take responsibility for that as well.
Who are your supporters in this election?
I would say a lot of the business community, and I'd say
people who believe that the council is not accountable and
hasn't got ... the business of running the council [at