What do you know about the candidates contesting
Dunedin's mayoral campaign in 2013? Council reporter Debbie
Porteous puts the questions to Aaron Hawkins.
Broadcaster and writer Aaron Hawkins says the Dunedin City
Council needs to get more active in looking after its people
and the planet. The delicate balance between paying off the
city's mountain of debt and not compromising the quality of
life in the city was one of the challenges, if not the
biggest challenge, for the incoming council, he said, as was
shifting the focus from solely cutting spending, to raising
revenue outside the rates bill.
Why are you standing?
I offer a strong and principled alternative to the current
leadership and believe I have the passion and ideas required
to lead Dunedin into becoming a great city for the 21st
I think the people deserve more of a say, more often, in how
their city is run and I want to spend more time talking to
the community and less time talking to ''key stakeholders''.
I'd like to see the people who live here and work here
considered as key stakeholders more than they are.
What are the major issues facing Dunedin?
Dunedin needs jobs, sustainable jobs, warm and healthy homes,
and safe, efficient and affordable ways to get between them.
We don't have money for big projects, so we need to focus on
what we can do together as a community.
We have a large amount of debt as a city but we have to be
careful not to fixate solely on paying it back.
I don't see the point in getting the city back in the black
if, as a result, nobody wants to live, work or visit here,
because we ran down our quality of life in order to pay off
our debt mountain faster.
That's a delicate balance, obviously.
We don't hear a lot about the council raising other revenue
outside rates but we could certainly see our companies
thinking more laterally about ways of raising more revenue,
rather than the council focusing only on taking the knife to
parts of the DCC organisation.
How would you create more jobs in Dunedin?
I think we can spend more council money locally and look at
raising the threshold for the council procurement policy.
We need to see where local procurement isn't happening and
why, and, if those services potentially aren't available in
Dunedin, why not and do we need to look at them being
We urgently need to work on a policy and a plan to keep
graduates in Dunedin or getting alumni to return.
We need a more supportive culture around people and start-up
We need to protect and promote our wildlife industries and
use them to sell Dunedin better to visitors and potential
I'd also like to extend the framework of the warm Dunedin
scheme to businesses and commercial landlords that want to
implement more efficient energy systems.
This could reduce the cost of doing business and create
business and jobs in energy auditing, installation and
potentially in engineering, too.
Your views on oil and gas and the hotel development are
quite well known. Should the council be throwing its doors
open to all and any business?
I think it's important that we keep the integrity of our
district plan, which has come out of a democratic process and
a lengthy dialogue between the council and the city, rather
than overruling it on an ad hoc basis wherever money is being
thrown around, particularly with regard to development. I was
disappointed the waterfront hotel development argument
reduced so quickly down to an all-or-nothing approach, when I
think both sides could have been more open to compromise.
I think here it would have been dangerous for the hearings
committee to have approved the hotel because it would have
made the DCC liable for any appeals etc.
I'm fairly openly and unequivocally opposed to oil and gas
The benefits are a myth. There will be no jobs, and we are
expected to take all of the risk and get none of the reward.
To say we are looking at ways to future-proof our energy
supply, our fuel supply, we're looking at alternative
transport strategies, that South Dunedin is in a
developmental holding pattern because of sea-level rise and
how that's going to affect that community - to say we are
taking all those things seriously and then to let someone set
up that [oil and gas exploration] off the coast of our city
and exacerbate all those same problems, is disappointing.
Being an early adopter in the fields of high-value low-carbon
export economy and renewable energy could potentially be very
lucrative for the region, rather than desperately clinging on
to the death rattle of the 19th-century energy industry.
What is your vision for Dunedin and how would you make it
I think we have the potential to develop Dunedin into being a
great 21st-century small city. We're never going to be mega
city and that's great. That's why a lot of people live here.
We have to realise Dunedin, for a lot of people, is a
lifestyle choice and more people that make that choice have
higher expectations with regard to environmental protection,
social justice and maintaining and preserving an arts and
There's a quality of life we need to be able to maintain to
attract people to want to work and live here. I don't think
the council has done as good a job as it could have of
selling that story to tourists or potential residents. We are
not that good at celebrating our strengths and successes.
That's something we have to overcome as a community and a
city, to be proud of all the great things we do.
We are a little too humble sometimes for our own good, I
What strengths would you bring as mayor?
We're at a crucial point right now and we need a mayor who's
prepared to take a stand when it counts and go in to bat for
the concerns of the community and who is prepared to think
laterally when it comes to alternative solutions for
everything from urban renewal to economic development, town
planning and public transport.
Consensus decision-making is important in ensuring the
council runs as well as possible but it isn't an end goal in
and of itself. An election should be about candidates putting
forward their vision for Dunedin and voters deciding which
vision they support rather than the process of how they are
going to manage. There's a leadership aspect to the mayoralty
and it's perhaps become a little more managerial than I would
Do you intend to vote with Greater Dunedin?
I think the ideological spectrum within that group of
candidates is fairly broad and I don't necessarily have a lot
in common with all of them but I look forward to working with
all elected councillors to push policies that put our people
and our planet first.
People won't have anything to worry about me caucusing or
bloc voting with Greater Dunedin, to be honest.
When did you join the Green Party?
In 2010; I was a member of the party when I ran last time.
Why are you standing specifically as a Green candidate
this time then?
There has been a long tradition in local body politics with
mayors and councillors that have had strong party political
affiliations. I think it's more honest to declare my
affiliations and what my values and principles are. If people
support that then they will vote for me. Nothing has changed
in the way I feel and think since the last election.
What community involvement have you had?
I sit on the board of the Blue Oyster Arts Trust and the
Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust, so have some experience in running
year-round community projects on fairly small budgets.
Through the radio station (Radio 1) I've provided platforms
for community groups that wouldn't ordinarily get them.
I was writing regularly on local government issues for the
late D-Scene and actively participated in DCC consultation
processes. I sit on street corners wearing fluorescent vests
collecting change for everybody from the Night Shelter Trust
to Rape Crisis.
How are you funding your campaign?
I'm funding it myself with support from campaign donations
and fundraising events and I've had some support from the
local branch of the Green Party.
How much will you spend on it?
Who are your supporters?
Green Party supporters, and I'm getting a lot of support
across the spectrum from people who want to see the DCC more
active in looking after our people and our planet and
celebrating our strengths and our success and making sure our
future generations get to enjoy the same opportunities we've