$0 to $50,000 to be elected

Dave Cull and Chris Staynes spent the most on their campaigns during this year's local elections....
Dave Cull and Chris Staynes spent the most on their campaigns during this year's local elections. Graphic: ODT
Despite being some of the biggest spenders during the Dunedin local body election this year,...
Despite being some of the biggest spenders during the Dunedin local body election this year, Ronald Fung and Barry Timmings' campaigns were unsuccessful. Graphic: ODT
At the other end of the spectrum, some of the lowest spenders during the DCC election were Conrad...
At the other end of the spectrum, some of the lowest spenders during the DCC election were Conrad Stedmam, Damian Newell and Jim O'Malley, all of whom were successfully elected to council. Graphic: ODT

Big spending did not necessarily pay off in Dunedin’s October local government elections.

While the two biggest spenders, Mayor Dave Cull and deputy mayor Cr Chris Staynes, made it back to the council table with spending of more than $50,321 and $42,677 respectively, Ronald Fung spent $25,234 on an unsuccessful bid, as did Barry Timmings with spending of $20,923.

Election donations also made an appearance this year from beyond Dunedin. The Otago Daily Times understands rich-lister and Kerikeri businessman Peter Kraus gave $10,000  to Mr Timmings’ campaign, but Mr Timmings refused to confirm this.

Mr Timmings said he did not know if Mr Kraus was a rich-lister or not, but he was "a personal acquaintance of mine".

Cr Jim O’Malley managed to win a council seat with a budget of $0. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Cr Jim O’Malley managed to win a council seat with a budget of $0. Photo: Gregor Richardson.

He agreed Mr Kraus was a businessman from Kerikeri, but said he did not know him "in a business context".

Candidate Wayne Idour, who spent $7523 on his unsuccessful shot at council,  received two donations, totalling $5531 from Mark Fraundorfer of Tauranga.

Mr Idour could not be contacted last night. Green candidates Cr Aaron Hawkins and Marie Laufiso, both of who gained council seats, received $12,147 and $6073 respectively from the Green Party.

At the other end of the spending scale successful candidate Cr Jim O’Malley spent nothing.

Cr O’Malley said he wanted to demonstrate it was possible to win an election without spending money.

"I feel that sometimes in elections the people with bigger wallets are getting in because they are using methods to allow for name recognition, not necessarily understanding whether the person’s policies are good."

Cr O’Malley said running for the mayoralty raised his profile by providing more media coverage.

"It is the increased profile. You’ve got to get your profile up one way or the other."

Asked if there were times he felt he would have liked to spend money on his campaign, he said it was "more important to put a zero in that column at the end than to spend a few bucks here and there".

"That became a high priority."

Mr Cull said it was not possible to tell before or after an election whether his level of spending was necessary.

It was his third term as mayor, he had strong opposition, a campaign was developed with Firebrand in Dunedin and "that’s what it cost".

"When you’re the incumbent mayor you have a whole lot of responsibilities that you can’t just drop to campaign."

Cr Staynes said the break-up of the Greater Dunedin political grouping early this year meant his spending had risen this election.

"When you no longer stand as part of the group, and stand as an independent, you want to do the same thing you’ve done in the past election."

That meant creative work that he had to pay for himself, and aspects like mail drop costs.

"It is more than what I had intended to spend.

"At the end of the day you don’t know if it helped you to get in or not."

Cr Damian Newell said his decision to just spend just $1121 was because "I didn’t have a lot of money to put into it, to be honest."

"You can spend as much as you like. It’s a bottomless pit.

"Without pleading hard-up, I’ve got three kids and one income."

Cr Newell said name recognition from his role on radio did help, but would not have got him elected on its own.

"I think it was as much the work I’ve done in the community with different groups, and networking."

Cr Andrew Whiley said if he had been running for council, he would not have spent the $19,663 he had on his mayoral campaign.

"I believe spending $5000 to $8000 is an adequate expense in putting your message out and communicating to the community what you’re about."

Cr Whiley was concerned those who had run for mayor, without spending money, had "piggy-backed" on the extra media coverage given to mayoral candidates.

"I used that in 2013, but I also spent some money, and contributed on that basis."

"You do have to spend money to get your story out, and that’s essentially part of running a campaign and presenting your image forward."

He congratulated people who had spent nothing and got elected, but felt disappointed for "those who actually put the hard yards in", and were overlooked.

Mr Fung could not be contacted yesterday.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz 

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