In the past three years the council has built a stand-alone
council chamber and civil defence headquarters in its
Stafford St office block's car park but a long-term
solution to its overcrowding problems has yet to be found.
Photo by ODT.
The Otago Regional Council will go into the next
triennium having lost considerable experience from around its
table, yet facing crunch time on some big issues.
In the past year long-term chief executive Graeme Martin has
retired and veteran councillor Duncan Butcher is bowing out
at this election.
The loss of experience could grow, given there are
challengers for all seats on the council except for Moeraki -
11, including sitting councillors, fighting for six Dunedin
seats, seven, including one incumbent, fighting for three
Dunstan seats and three, including the incumbents, standing
for the two Molyneux seats.
Whatever the council's composition after October 12, there
are testing times ahead for it and new chief executive Peter
While the present council managed to get its 6A rural water
quality plan change through to adoption, the hard work is
just beginning - implementation when there are still a lot of
unknowns about how the standards are going to be measured and
an Environment Court hearing in January.
As the 2021 deadline for water-mining rights to change to
Resource Management Act consents comes closer, water
allocation and minimum flow setting becomes more urgent.
Also dominating is the work to determine a new Regional
Policy Statement, which governs the future of natural and
physical resources in Otago.
It will require significant input and agreement from Otago's
district and city councils to ensure consistency with their
district plans and to meet the Government's changing
Then there is the ''albatross'' around the council's neck,
its housing issue. In the past three years the council has
built a stand-alone council chamber and civil defence
headquarters in its Stafford St office block's car park but a
long-term solution to its overcrowding problems has yet to be
This council has put aside $5 million in an interest-bearing
account in preparation for the future decision.
There are other challenges the council will face - continuing
to improve the region's air quality to meet national
standards, completing the Water of Leith flood protection
scheme, continual changes to public transport legislation and
keeping tabs on landowners to ensure they keep their rabbit
Then there is the work that cannot be predicted - responding
to flooding and other natural disasters.
The council dealt with six flood events in the past year.
However, the work has not daunted the councillors; all but Cr
Butcher are standing again this year.
Chairman Stephen Woodhead is standing in the Molyneux
constituency that role and that of the deputy will be decided
after the election.
The new council's first job will be to elect both. Deputy
chairman David Shepherd is also standing, and long-time
Mosgiel community board member Brian Miller is challenging
for one of the two Molyneux seats.
Adding another seat to the Dunstan constituency means there
are three positions available;
incumbent Gerry Eckhoff is up against emergency management
professional Jon Mitchell, Lowburn farmer Murray MacMillan,
farmer Gary Kelliher, farm manager and real estate agent
Chris Pascoe and PGG wool representative Graeme Bell.
Company director Andrew Rutherford is also standing again,
having failed to secure a seat in 2010.
Incumbent Dunedin councillors Gretchen Robertson, Louise
Croot, Sam Neill, Trevor Kempton, Michael Deaker and Bryan
Scott are being challenged by new candidates business mentor
Austen Banks, mental health consultant Graham Roper, Otago
Boys' High School rector Clive Rennie, who will give up his
day job if elected, and University of Otago scientist Marc
Cr Doug Brown was elected to the Moeraki constituency
• Second largest region in New Zealand by land area, about
• Includes four districts: Clutha, Queenstown Lakes, Central
Otago, part of Waitaki, plus Dunedin City.
• Population: 211,300; 60% live in Dunedin.
• 12 councillors , up from 11, with increase of Dunstan
councillors from 2 to 3.
• Constituencies: Dunedin (6 councillors), Dunstan (3),
Molyneux (Taieri and South Otago) (2) and Moeraki (1).
• 100% shareholder in Port Otago.
• General rate increase of 2.97% for 2013-2014.