Mayoral contest heats up

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull faces a political challenge - possibly from all sides - as the race for the city's robe and chains later this year begins to heat up.

Queenstown businessman and philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar yesterday confirmed he was behind a push to resurrect a Citizens Association-style group that could support candidates in October's local body elections.

The idea had been raised with potential backers in Dunedin and, if confirmed, could see the group's mayoral or council candidates offered financial support by the group, including from interested businessmen, he said.

Sir Eion said he was prepared to help finance the right candidates' campaigns himself, saying the city needed ''good leadership''.

''I would certainly support that.''

At the same time, former Act New Zealand party list MP Hilary Calvert, of Dunedin, confirmed she was also considering an election bid, either by challenging Mr Cull directly or by seeking a seat as a councillor.

That could include forming a group of like-minded candidates to contest the election. Some approaches had already been made, she said.

''If there was a collection of similarly-thinking people, I might hook up with them.

''I'm reflecting on whether it is something I'd be prepared to do.''

The Green Party also plans to announce on Friday a candidate for the mayoralty - as well as a council seat - and Cr Lee Vandervis yesterday confirmed he would run again for mayor as well as a councillor.

Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times he was only aware of the Greens' pending challenge, but expected others would follow.

''There will be challengers - there always are.''

Mr Cull, who in January announced his intention to seek re-election, said yesterday it was ''likely'' he would again head a Greater Dunedin ticket featuring other council candidates.

Exactly who was yet to be confirmed, but decisions were likely ''in the next month or so'', he said.

However, he fired an opening salvo at those considering a party political approach to Dunedin's election, saying ''there is a view ... loyalty should be to the community and not to a party''.

''The mayor is there to represent the best interests of this community, and I would not want decisions on that to be driven necessary from a national, political basis.''

Councillors remained split over their election intentions yesterday, with more confirming they would stand again but others remaining undecided.

Mr Cull, deputy mayor Chris Staynes and Cr Teresa Stevenson all confirmed in January they would stand again, Crs Neil Collins and Fliss Butcher ruled themselves out and the rest were yet to decide.

Yesterday, Crs Vandervis, John Bezett and Kate Wilson - the latter standing for the last time - all said they would run again, while the others remained undecided.

Cr Syd Brown - a former deputy mayor - remained among the undecided, and would not comment when asked if he would consider a bid to unseat Mr Cull.

Student radio broadcaster Aaron Hawkins, who stood unsuccessfully for mayor and council in 2010, has also been linked to Friday's announcement by the Greens, but he would not confirm his plans yesterday.

Dunedin businessman Ian Taylor was also rumoured to be a possible candidate, but he said from London he was ''definitely not a starter''.

Sir Eion said discussions about resurrecting the Citizens Association remained at an informal stage, but the move was being considered by possible backers he had approached in Dunedin.

He would not name them, or possible candidates, but believed it was important to offer support and allow the council to regenerate.

The association had, in the past, selected and supported candidates' election bids, including financially, but went into recess after each election, Sir Eion said.

The new group, if confirmed, could operate in much the same way.

''The risk is if there's no-one encouraging people, you won't get good people to stand.

''At the end of the day, it's very important for the city to have good leadership.''

Ms Calvert would not identify those she had approached, but believed the council needed ''more sense and rational thought and a few other things''.

She had hoped to find other candidates to stand instead of her, but ''I'm not finding a whole lot of other people standing in a line to do it''.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Good for Dunedin

Is change and a bit of competition. Leave it to the voters to vote. The City needs a way forward, so the more options the better.

Not good for Dunedin

Peneli: Sure, Mr Edgar has a right to say what he likes, and he certainly has the money to have far more of a say than the rest of us, but we don't have to listen to him. His championing of the stadium while he was on the ORFU board led the city into a financial disaster. His personal interests in Queenstown and those of us who actually live in Dunedin are obviously not particularly well aligned. His support of any candidate may be lucrative for the candidate but is not likely to be good for Dunedin as a whole. As I said below, let him work to undo the damage he's done to the city in the past few years before he tries to dabble once again in Dunedin's future.[Abridged]

Edgar has a right to have a say

It is ratepayers as well as residents who vote in local body elections. Assuming Sir Eion Edgar is a ratepayer in Dunedin, he will be entitled to vote.

A lot of the comments below seem to be directed at his personal wealth. However this has allowed him to give a great deal to the city - this is honoured by the Edgar Centre being named for him. He clearly still has an interest in Dunedin, and what is so wrong with that?

At least any group he supports will be known. If you don't like a group of candidates he backs, exercise your democratic rights and don't vote for them.

Understating, not overstating

Yes Mike, I agree and I thought that when I penned my comment. In the end I chose to understate it. That way, it would be less likely the clowns who somehow still think this was a good plan would be less likely to nitpick my comment

Hundreds of millions

Speedfreak: Surely you mean hundreds of millions, not hundreds of thousands. When you add up all the costs the ratepayers are going to be out almost half a billion by the time the stadium has been paid for - and that's assuming they ever figure out how to make it stop losing millions every year.

Go on, waste some of your money

As soon as we find out who you are going to try to bankroll into council, we will make sure it doesn't happen. You, and your money are not welcome here after the last mess that will take some 40 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify. Mess with things in Queenstown and just leave us alone 

Mayoralty

Mr. Edgar seems to think he can buy himself and his mates a mayor in our city whilst sitting in Queenstown. What is "good leadership"? Is that the type of leadership that sank us with the stadium debt? [Abridged]

No more debt Mr Edgar

So Mr Edgar wants to reinstitute the National Party front "Citizens Party" in Dunedin ... from Queenstown - this is the same guy who helped push through the disastrous stadium plan that's resulted in the city's current debt crisis.

Now he wants to use his money to get the people he wants elected to the council - to do what exactly? Build another stadium? Mr Edgar how about before you use your money to meddle in another city's politics you use it to help get us out of of the financial disaster we're stuck in from last time you did that.

[Abridged]

Ironic or what?

It seems more than ironic that a long-time Queenstown resident who was very active in ensuring that the City built the stadium against the clear wishes of the community resulting in record and unsustainable levels of debt, now wants to continue to influence through bankrolling an election campaign, who gets elected.  Isn't it time that he learns that being very wealthy does not give him the mandate to influence the governance of the City?

mayoral contest

What is Edgar doing meddling in Dunedin local politics? He is now based in Queenstown.Not Dunedin. It is not his business. He is a major face of the financially disastrous decision to go ahead with the stadium.

What this race does show is widespread disatisfaction with Cull as Mayor. From all sides. It is no wonder given his propensity to flip flop over  a wide range of issues. 

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