The temperature is rising in Dunedin's mayoral race as
incumbent Dave Cull and one of his fiercest rivals go
head-to-head over credit for slashing the Forsyth Barr
Stadium interest bills by $128 million.
The debate erupted as Mayor Dave Cull and Cr Lee Vandervis
traded volleys yesterday over the decision to increase
stadium loan terms from 20 years to 40 years, and then
decrease them to 18.5 years.
Mr Cull has claimed the decision to find extra funding to
reduce loan terms had saved the council - and ratepayers -
$128 million in interest costs.
However, Cr Vandervis took issue with that in a strongly
worded Otago Daily Times interview last week, pointing
out Mr Cull had first overseen the increase to 40 years.
Cr Vandervis also claimed it was he, and not Mr Cull, who had
''led the charge'' to have the loan terms reduced again.
That prompted Mr Cull to take to Facebook over the weekend,
pointing out Cr Vandervis had missed one key meeting last
year, at which the loan term was debated, and voted against
reducing the loan term - to 18.5 years - early this year.
And, speaking to the ODT, Mr Cull said Cr Vandervis
was ''... misleading the public. Whether he's doing it
intentionally or not, or because his memory has failed him,
I'm not sure'' .
''There's an old saying that in war, truth is the first
casualty. Well, elections are a bit like that, too,'' Mr Cull
Some councillors had been surprised at a budget meeting in
January last year to learn of the increased 40-year loan
term, but had reluctantly endorsed it, while asking staff to
investigate ways of reducing the term back to 20 years.
Reports by the ODT at the time showed Cr Jinty
MacTavish was a vocal critic of the 40-year term, while Cr
Vandervis was on holiday and missed the meeting after a
last-minute change of meeting dates.
Mr Cull said yesterday he was not criticising Cr Vandervis
for being absent.
''I'm just saying it's a bit difficult to lead the charge
when you're not there.''
Cr Vandervis hit back yesterday, releasing a series of emails
between himself, Mr Cull and council staff from January last
Some emails, sent while he was on holiday at the time,
demanded answers over the decision to increase the loan term
to 40 years.
Cr Vandervis claimed the idea had been ''roundly rejected''
by councillors at an earlier non-public committee meeting in
The minutes of that 2011 meeting showed staff were to report
back on ways of repaying the stadium loans within 20 years,
but also on ways of restructuring capital repayments ''to
reduce the timeframe to less than 40 years''.
All the resolutions were carried. Cr Vandervis voted against
the latter but was outvoted.
Cr Vandervis would not be interviewed when contacted
yesterday. Instead, he criticised the ODT's review of
councillors, published on Saturday, before hanging up.
In an email, he claimed the idea of extending loans had been
deliberately ''refloated'' while he was on holiday in
''These are not my facts - they are the facts, properly
archived,'' he said.
Mr Cull's claims to have saved ratepayers $128 million was a
''provable deceit'', given Mr Cull had agreed - even
reluctantly - to increase the loan terms in the first place,
Cr Vandervis argued.
''This confirms that Mayor Cull has knowingly increased the
repayment period and fixed debt to produce the appearance of
low rates increases.''
Mr Cull said the initial increase of the loan terms to 40
years was one of the ''unpleasant surprises'' dealt with in
the wake of Dunedin City Holdings Ltd's multimillion-dollar
However, he had never denied that, and had agreed to it only
reluctantly, as a short-term fix until the matter could be
addressed, he said.
''And we succeeded. And I don't mean me - I mean council.''
He denied it was misleading to talk of a $128 million saving
when returning loan terms to similar lengths.
''Had we continued to leave the term where staff recommended
we do, we would have spent another $128 million over the
period. That's the reality.
''You can get into semantics about it but it's certainly a
saving on what we would have had to pay.''