Catcalls and comedy

Dunedin mayoral candidates (from left) Mayor Peter Chin, Lee Vandervis, Cr Dave Cull, Aaron...
Dunedin mayoral candidates (from left) Mayor Peter Chin, Lee Vandervis, Cr Dave Cull, Aaron Hawkins, Olivier Lequeux, Jimmy Knowles and Kevin Dwyer. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It verged on stand-up comedy and contained a strong element of amateur theatre, but Dunedin's mayoral aspirants each did their best to woo voters at the Otago Daily Times/Otago Chamber of Commerce Dunedin mayoral candidates forum.

The meeting, complete with audience catcalls, snide comments between candidates, and the occasional bizarre moment, was held at the Otago Museum's Barclay Theatre yesterday afternoon.

It was televised, an aspect that may have been behind some of the more theatrical behaviour on show.

Candidates were given two minutes to state their case, before questions from the audience of about 90 people, many of whom clearly had strong views on the council.

Kevin Dwyer opened proceedings, saying consultation in Dunedin was ignored, while Jimmy Knowles urged voters to "do some thorough research" on candidates.

Olivier Lequeux told the audience the council was "appalling", before, for no readily apparent reason, opening the door of the theatre to briefly parade a young blonde woman with what appeared to be a toy gun.

Aaron Hawkins said Dunedin needed infrastructure, not just for the city, but to attract "high-quality professionals" to the city, while Cr Dave Cull said the city needed a more consistent approach, rather than, for instance, having heritage protection, then granting consent to demolish heritage buildings.

Lee Vandervis said he, and only he, had presented solutions, like slimming bureaucracy, merging the city and regional councils and starting a buy-local campaign, while Mayor Peter Chin asked for a mandate to continue the work he had done, despite many having disagreed with some decisions the council had made.

Mr Vandervis was asked the first question by Greater Dunedin's Tony Crick, who wanted to know how many people he planned to sack at the council as part of his slimming of bureaucracy.

Mr Vandervis said Dunedin had 687 full-time equivalent jobs, and the number should be closer to Tauranga's 237, a council of similar size.

Mr Chin responded Tauranga not only had an average rate $300 higher than Dunedin, but it did not have art galleries or museums like Dunedin, so Mr Vandervis was not "comparing apples with apples".

Cr Cull said getting rid of 400 people would be "naivete and recklessness", would reduce services radically, before clashing with a member of the audience, who asked for examples, but refused to say which aspect of what he had said she was talking about.

Other questions raised covered candidates' attitudes to cutting the council's activities back to "core services", attitudes to backing the tourism industry, the future of John Wilson Ocean Dr, and the role of community boards.

Mr Chin's suggestion the Forsyth Barr Stadium would be an important part of Dunedin's tourism industry in future prompted calls of "rubbish" by some in the audience.

Other notable moments were Mr Vandervis' claim he began couch burning in Dunedin, and Mr Lequeux's suggestions the Undie 500 should return to the city, and that the new stadium had no toilets.

The forum will be broadcast at 8.30pm on Saturday by Dunedin television station Channel 9.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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