Cull's claim slammed as election stunt

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Claims by a mayoral candidate the Dunedin branding campaign is a cynical "feel-good" ploy have been slammed as an election stunt.

Cr Dave Cull this week criticised a branding campaign some two years into its gestation, claiming it was "an enormous expense" and that councillors had had no input into its development.

But Mayor Peter Chin, and other councillors, have accused Cr Cull of missing meetings on the issue, raising no objections when he attended, and voting for the marketing budget for the last three years without debate.

The issue was sparked by an announcement on Monday of the city's branding campaign, which, in its latest form, would have no logo or slogan.

Cr Cull said in a press release the campaign, "just as the city gears up for an election" was timed to convince the Dunedin community, "the majority of whom have lost confidence in most of the present council, that it should feel good".

Councillors had had no input into the campaign, he said, and had not seen a memorandum of understanding signed between the council and "brand partners".

"This is a cynical ploy to deflect the deep discontent that people feel about council decision-making over the last three years."

But Cr John Bezett, chairman of the economic development committee which oversees the marketing campaign, a committee of which Cr Cull is deputy chairman, said Cr Cull had "ample opportunities" for input.

"He has not picked up on those opportunities."

Neither Cr Cull, nor fellow Greater Dunedin councillor Kate Wilson, would say who was behind the "ploy".

Cr Cull said "city hall establishment" was behind the timing of the campaign, before saying he did not know who was behind the timing of its release.

Cr Wilson said she would not answer the question directly, instead complaining of councillors who "rubber stamp" issues, instead of providing critical analysis.

Mr Chin responded to Cr Cull's accusations, saying he had "misrepresented" the issue.

On the financing of the campaign, the council had an average of just under $500,000 for city marketing from 2000-09, and $535,000 to 2020.

"If Cr Cull had concerns related to the funding of this campaign, then he was in a position to move that it be reduced, or deferred, or in some way modified."

But Cr Cull had not, he said.

On Cr Cull's criticism of a lack of councillor input, Mr Chin said councillors were invited, at an October 27, 2009, workshop, to react to the direction of the campaign, and the intention not to have a slogan or logo.

Councillors involved with the council's digital strategy, which Cr Cull headed, had been invited to attend a briefing on April 29, as there were "synergies" between the two strategies.

"Cr Cull was invited, but did not attend."

At a briefing on Monday, it was indicated once creative material was available, then councillors and brand partners' input would be sought.

Cr Cull responded councillors did not know what part of the $535,000-a-year budget was for the marketing campaign.

The April 29 meeting was a briefing, not a chance to debate the issue, as was the briefing this week.

Asked if his actions were cynical electioneering, he said he was campaigning on the basis the council was "certainly not high in the good books of the community".

Cr Bezett said Cr Cull was trying to distance himself from the rest of the council, at the expense of fellow councillors, something he said was "disappointing".

Cr Cull and Crs Bezett have a meeting this morning to discuss the marketing strategy.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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