Councillors reveal election year priorities

Neil Collins
Neil Collins
Dunedin city councillors are entering election year promising to push for more disciplined spending, debt reduction and even a merger with the Otago Regional Council, before turning their attention to the ballot box.

However, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has become one of the first to confirm he will stand again, seeking a second term as mayor.

At the same time, the city's longest-serving incumbent councillor, Neil Collins, has confirmed he will step down at the election, while Cr Lee Vandervis is considering a high-spending bid to unseat Mr Cull.

Cr Collins yesterday told the Otago Daily Times he would not stand again at the next ballot on October 12.

His retirement would end a council career which stretched back to 1989 and made him the longest-serving incumbent councillor.

''I think it's time to allow other people to step in,'' he said.

Most other councillors spoken to were reluctant to reveal their hand yet, preferring to wait until mid-year before confirming any decision.

However, Cr Vandervis - who stood unsuccessfully for mayor at the last election in 2010 - said he was leaning towards another mayoral bid, as well as running for a council seat again.

He claimed he had already been approached by a ''fairly wealthy individual'' offering to fund his campaign if he agreed to run for mayor again.

Cr Vandervis would not name the person, and said the amount of money on offer had not been discussed, but the person had ''substantial'' resources.

''It would take some pretty serious sponsorship for me to go seriously after Cull. He remains very popular,'' Cr Vandervis said.

The Local Electoral Act set campaign spending limits based on population, and in Dunedin meant mayoral candidates were limited to $55,000.

That meant ''the wallet can only be so much use'', Mr Cull said when told of Cr Vandervis' comments.

Of those contacted yesterday, only Mr Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Cr Teresa Stevenson would confirm they planned to stand again, while Cr Kate Wilson said she would ''more than likely'' join them.

Crs Vandervis, Bill Acklin, Richard Thomson and Colin Weatherall all said it was too soon to make a decision.

Crs John Bezett, Paul Hudson, Jinty MacTavish, Syd Brown and Andrew Noone could not be contacted.

Neither could Cr Fliss Butcher, although she has previously said she would join Cr Collins in stepping down in October.

Asked about priorities for the coming year, councillors identified the annual plan budget hearings beginning later this month as a key focus.

Mr Cull said it would be ''reasonably challenging'' to achieve the hoped-for rates increase of no more than 4% for 2013-14.

''That's just as much a challenge this year as it was to get [down] to 5% last year,'' he said.

Despite that, the council also needed to find room for positive initiatives, like improvements to the heritage warehouse precinct, cycling infrastructure and economic development strategy initiatives, as well as pursuing new deals in Shanghai, he said.

Cr Acklin said this year's annual plan would be a key focus as councillors battled over what to retain or remove from the budget.

He wanted the council to be more active in support of job creation, such as the establishment of an oil and gas support base in Dunedin, and hoped to see progress on the city's aquatic facilities and Logan Park upgrade.

''Some people would say those things are luxuries, but ... I think that's what the city is here to provide.''

Cr Collins said he would be keeping ''a very close watch'' on the council's finances and rates increases, which needed to remain affordable.

''That should be all councillors' priorities.''

Cr Thomson agreed, saying he wanted rates increases kept within the 4% goal set for 2013-14, while ensuring the city's economic development strategy was ''up and running''.

''It's really key to the future of this city.''

Cr Stevenson said she wanted to see more council funding used for job creation initiatives, such as home insulation work.

Cr Vandervis said he would be pushing for a merger of the city council with the Otago Regional Council to reduce duplication, thereby cutting costs, and use the savings to help pay for Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Cr Weatherall said this year's annual plan would be ''critical'' given the squeeze on council budgets.

''There's a whole lot of demands, but obviously not a lot of spare cash.''

Cr Staynes agreed, saying rates needed to be kept at the promised level, to free up cash for debt reduction, while Cr Wilson said her focus would also be on debt reduction.

''We have to get on top of the debt ... If we haven't heard that message yet then I'm not quite sure what we need to be hit with to understand it.''


Was never against development

Thats the point all the pro-stadium supporters have never grasped. We were never against the stadium, just against having to pay for it, that is the difference that you continue to ignore.

GV set the rateable value for a property, the constant milking of supposed higher income earners through rates has to stop, your property increases in value the rates do as well, when a GV is reduced the council finds another way to milk the cream off the top. My rates got to the point of being unsustainable and forcasted increases simply compounded that, the slow motion trainwreck that is the DCC continuing to implode will continue.

No-one has been held accountable or any transparancy around what the money has been spent on. The brakes are off and I will continue to watch this spectacle knowing no more of my money is being spent by this lot.

Property knowledge

Te Jackle: "I had a good property that had good capital gain that was reduced by 20% at the last GV".

The Council has nothing to do with the value of your property. 

But congratulations, you seem to be doing well in Australia. Ironically I came to Dunedin from overseas 8 years ago and am doing equally well here in comparison to where I came from.

Let's hope that your fellow ADPL members follow your lead and decide to pack their bags. Leave this great city to those who can be positive. 

Good night and good luck

You chasten my irony Te Jackie, and well done. An astonishing story. Much more of this and we'll all be moving abroad. Congrats, best wishes.

What has the council ever done?

ffolkes: There is one thing they done for me. I guess I should be grateful realy. The DCC has pushed me to the brink in terms of financial ability. I was barely able to pay my bills simply due to rates increases, I had a good property that had good capital gain that was reduced by 20% at the last GV. The DCC rates to pay for the footy arena was way over Farry's $66 quote.
I sold up and moved to Oz, where I now earn three times in the hand what I earned gross in NZ, I have two inner city apartments and absolutly love this place.
That is what the DCC have done for me. Good bye and good riddance.

Councillors not standing for re-election

Good on you Cr Collins. Now all we need is the other pro-spending councillors to follow suit to be replaced by councillors with much needed wisdom and good debt reduction skills.
Thanks Neil, you have helped make Dunedin what it is - broke.





What has the council ever done for us?

They saved the footie and fixed up South Dunedin. But, apart from that, what has the council ever done for us?

What has Vandervis done?

I seem to remember at the last election the Dunedin Anti Progress League were pushing for Cull, Vandervis and others to be the "new broom" on the Council. Then when Cull didn't do what they wanted they turned on him. 

Now Vanderis is looking likely to stand for mayor. I really really hope he gets in. And when he does he, and his cronies who seem to write into the ODT complaining about something on a daily basis, will have all the answers.  Dunedin will then be a really great place to live. Oh hang on, it already is.

Well, I suppose then the Dunedin Progress League (of which I am a proud member) will be able to complain on a daily basis.  Prepare yourself Vandervis.

Affordable rates

The joke at DCC has just about ended - "keeping rates affordable". It has been the convenient catch-cry of councillors of the last two council terms in particular, as they have mushroomed council debt to exponential levels (through annual plans and ad hoc spending sprees of their own invention and on receipt of bad advice) never before seen in the history of this council. The effect of which has been to blow out DCC itself, as well as DCHL and the subsidiary companies. At last, the (money) shells are cracking and the tide is fast upon the councillors and company directors responsible - some will try to flee.

Why now?

So Cr Collins is hanging up his council pen. After being one of those responsible for foisting the current fiscal clif onto the ratepayers he comes out with the following statement: Cr Collins said he would be keeping ''a very close watch'' on
the council's finances and rates increases, which needed to
remain affordable.

Does this guy hunt with the hounds AND run with the foxes or what? If he was truly representing the ratepayers he would have been doing this before now. 

Council elections

I hope for completely new blood for the Dunedin mayoralty. More than that, we owe it to ourselves to ensure there's a clean-out around the council table. The current crowd have not been transparent, and it appears they have no aptitude for maths or reducing debt. A more sick council you could not find.

And the record is?

I wonder what Cr Collins could point to in his long period on the Council that is worthy of note - apart from his fiscal irresponsibility?

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