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- Age: 63.
- Brought up: Broadlands, Bay of Plenty.
- Occupation: City councillor.
- Council/governance experience: One term.
- Political orientation: No set political view.
- Describe yourself in three words: Commitment, vision and action.
After one term on the council, Rachel Elder believes she has the experience and qualities it takes to be a successful mayor. Cr Elder wants people to have more of a say in what is going on and thinks the council's role is to help the city achieve the goals and aspirations of its residents. A stronger focus and advocacy for South Dunedin is one of her priorities.
Why should you be mayor?
I absolutely love Dunedin and I'm a "yes, we can" person. When there are problems or challenges I see opportunities. I also believe we are on this journey together as a city and we should be consulting and engaging with the whole community on issues. I'm really good at advocating, mentoring and facilitating so people own their issues and can speak for themselves. What I want is not the most important thing; it's what the community wants. I see the role of mayor as helping the whole city get what they want.
What are your top priorities?
My top priority would be to listen to the people. One of the things which really concerns people at the moment is the congestion in the middle of town. There's 26,000 people just from the university, polytech and hospital who commute into town each day and I think we need to work together on a number of options. There's not just one solution which will solve it. There are people who need parks - the elderly, disabled, working mums and shift workers - so what do we need to make sure those people can still come into town? South Dunedin's infrastructure - including public amenities - needs to be looked at.
We need to address the problems facing the area and invest in the science.
Is there anything you would change from the approach the council was already taking on South Dunedin?
There's $35million already set aside for the area but we need to make sure the work is done as soon as possible.
We need to continue to have courageous conversations with all the groups involved in the area. I don't feel like we [the council] need to be threatened by people feeling anxious and worried about the situation because that is just a normal reaction. One area which could be dramatically improved is the Bathgate Park playground. We know great playgrounds in low-socioeconomic areas are one of the best investments we can make.
Has your one term on council given you enough experience to be a successful mayor?
Yes, I think I have. As a councillor you understand all the areas the council covers and what needs to be done and what the issues are. It's a huge advantage. The strength of a council is its ability to work together, so if you've got good supports in place - including the staff and CEO - then it is about having a vision and using that support to get it done.
You're involved in the city's start-up sector. What will you do as mayor to make sure that continues to develop and grow?
I'm very vocal about the good stories we've got and marketing those stories is very important. I talked to a young man who came down from Auckland, and he said Dunedin had the best start-up community because everyone is fewer than five minutes away from each other. I want to tell that story - loud and clear - if you want to start any business, why not come to Dunedin? We've got an ecosystem already and all the support you need only five to 10 minutes away.
What is the city doing well and what could be improved?
The shared path around the harbour - when finished - will change the city. We will have one of the best cycle-paths in New Zealand and people will come from all over just to visit it. The start-up ecosystem is doing well. All the street art and investment into the historic buildings has made a really cool, quirky place. The stadium has also made us a place to be, we've got events coming here we wouldn't have dreamed of five years ago. We do need to make sure people's voices are being heard as much as possible. Our transport system also needs improving.