Mayoral profile: Lee Vandervis

Dunedin businessman Lee Vandervis is standing again for mayor and as a city councillor. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dunedin businessman Lee Vandervis is standing again for mayor and as a city councillor. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
What do you know about the candidates who are contesting Dunedin's mayoral campaign in the 2010 local body elections? Today, in the second of a seven-part Mayoral Profile series, Chris Morris puts the questions to Lee Vandervis.

Lee Vandervis

Age: 55

Marital/family status: Married (second time), eight children between them.

Occupation: Acoustic engineer (working from home)/businessman.

Council experience: Dunedin city councillor, 2004-2007.

Running for: Mayor and council (central ward).

Outspoken businessman Lee Vandervis (55) is back for another crack at the Dunedin mayoralty.

After a sole term as a Dunedin city councillor, Mr Vandervis was voted out by the narrowest of margins - just four votes after special votes were counted - when he stood again as a councillor, and for the mayoralty, in the 2007 local body elections.

Still a passionate critic of the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the city's debt, Mr Vandervis is promising more frugality and a focus on cutting council costs, as well as initiatives to help revitalise Dunedin.

Why are you standing?

I'm standing basically because I think I'm the only one who can dig Dunedin out of its hole of debt at the moment.

And why do you think that?

Well, I saw it coming.

If you go back to a paper I produced for council in 2006, it outlined the way of reversing the inevitable ... debt increase [and] rates increases.

It was just on a page; I worked very hard to get it on a page, and it gave, line-by-line, 30 different suggestions for reducing the rates by anything up to 5%.

It's still quite relevant now.

Most of the things on it are things we needed to do then, and we need even more to do them now.

We have reached the prudential limits; they [the council] have misled the public about how much the stadium's going to cost.

Everything's been done on debt.

The direction of the city council has been for vanity projects; there's no other word for them.

Lovely things though the Chinese Garden and the stadium are - they're very lovely things but completely unaffordable and just inappropriate for Dunedin.

What are the major issues facing Dunedin?

Well, No 1, debt.

No 2, how we start to focus back on quality of life for ordinary Dunedin people.

We have got a city council that spends a lot of its money outside Dunedin, doesn't support Dunedin business, so a "spend local" campaign is vital.

The nominally higher amounts you might pay a local business to do something would be recouped almost immediately with the dollars circulating locally, plus it would give that business the opportunity to expand, to grow and to actually upskill or improve whatever they are capable of doing to meet what the outside competition would be doing anyway.

Reversing the debt situation is an absolute must.

You simply can't go putting more and more of your rates every year into interest payments.

Another issue that we have got to confront is that the stadium is only a shell and is not workable as is.

The stadium lacks all the electronic scoreboards, the turnstiles and everything else that you've got to have in the stadium to make it work, and its also insufficient of a whole lot of other things.

Dunedin can't produce those amounts of money.

I've come up with the idea of a nationwide stadium lottery ...

I think people in New Zealand generally believe in a big covered stadium in Dunedin as well, and a lot of them would buy tickets every week or so, especially if - as well as cash prizes - you had prizes like, you know, Carisbrook seats which could be used for garden furniture, signed footballs, sweaty Highlanders tops , whatever.

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