Dunedin's nine mayoral aspirants did their best to court the
tourism sector at their first mayoral candidates forum in the
city last night.
The relatively polite meeting on the theme of what candidates
would do, if elected mayor, for the tourism sector, was held
at Forsyth Barr stadium and hosted by tourism operator
organisation Dunedin Host.
It is the first of several public mayoral forums, including
the Otago Daily Times/Otago Chamber of Commerce
Dunedin mayoral debate on September 9.
Candidates were given a moment to introduce themselves and
say what they stood for, before pre-selected questions were
taken from the audience of about 40 people, mainly from the
Hilary Calvert began her contribution by saying she wanted to
clear the council books and make people accountable for every
Kevin Dwyer said he had been having issues getting
information from the Dunedin police on a personal matter,
before Cr Lee Vandervis said he would merge the Otago
Regional Council and Dunedin City Council and have a less
convoluted, more efficient, streamlined local government, to
help Dunedin ''really thrive''.
Olivier Lequeux said he was an ideas man, who in 17 years in
Dunedin had created a dozen businesses.
He had dealt with thousands of tourists and was concerned the
buses taking cruise-ship passengers to the Octagon were
''disgusting'' and ''the volunteers are not attractive''.
Dunedin could do ''so much better with very simple
Pete George said he wanted Dunedin to be a leader in
interactive communication, where ''digital democracy'' should
be used as much as possible. Tourism marketing was not taking
advantage of opportunities quickly enough, he said.
Steve McGregor said heating the St Clair hot pool to 40degC
and adding more lights to the city, so Dunedin became the
''City of Lights'', like Auckland was the ''city of sails'',
would help Dunedin become one of New Zealand's leading
The candidates all agreed there was no cohesive, united
message on tourism to Dunedin, and that there should be a
single organisation for tourism marketing and branding that
consolidated all the providers of those things. Candidates
were divided on whether it should be a council-controlled
Mayor Dave Cull said it needed to be supported by and involve
the council, but there had to be financial contributions from
the organisations that would benefit. Control of it needed to
Ms Calvert said the thing that worried her about establishing
a council-controlled company, was that at the moment all the
council had was ''council-uncontrolled companies'', with
nobody in charge of them and she was concerned this would get
out of control too.
Mr Dwyer said one person should be running ''the whole
thing'', while Cr Vandervis said the council experience with
council-controlled companies had been ''utter failure'' and
tourism marketing should be in-house, led by the mayor and
team to co-ordinate the private businesses.
Mr George would first consult people about what they wanted.
Andrew Whiley said the whole thing needed a bigger budget if
the city wanted more return.
Cr Vandervis, Mr Whiley, Aaron Hawkins and Ms Calvert were
against a targeted rate for tourism operators because it was
difficult to draw the line as to who to target, and Mr Cull
said he would only support it if it was clear who would be
targeted and what the money would be used for.
On whether ''oil exploration should be based in the city'',
Cr Vandervis, Mr George, Mr Whiley, Ms Calvert, Mr Lequeux
and Mr Dwyer said yes, while Mr Cull said the question was
only around supporting a base in Dunedin, as the exploration
decision was a Government decision, and where a base might
ultimately be was up to the oil companies.
The question was whether Dunedin would get any royalties from
what the companies found off the coast to cover regional
risks and costs.
Mr McGregor said it would send the wrong message to tourists,
while Green Party candidate Mr Hawkins said Dunedin would get
nothing out of it and it would be negligent to gamble with
the city's $100 million natural tourism industry for the
short-term gains of supporting a base in Dunedin.
Mr Hawkins said to attract and support tourism there needed
to be cheaper and more international flights to Dunedin,
cheaper and more efficient city-airport links, the i-Site
should be moved to the railway station and Dunedin needed to
make more of its wildlife and creative aspects.
Mr George said there needed to be a seal, penguin and
albatross sculpture built in the Octagon for photo
opportunities for tourists.
All candidates agreed small events needed to be supported by
the council in some form.