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
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
''I think it's time to allow other people to step in,'' he
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
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
''It would take some pretty serious sponsorship for me to go
seriously after Cull. He remains very popular,'' Cr Vandervis
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
''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
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
''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
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.''