Comment: Mayor criticised from all parts of political spectrum

Otago Daily Times city council reporter Grant Miller.
Otago Daily Times city council reporter Grant Miller.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins is vulnerable if he is copping flak left, right and centre.

Consistent opposition from the Right in the form of Cr Lee Vandervis is a given.

Centrist or centre-right opposition has been emerging as a threat, led by Cr Jules Radich.

Mr Hawkins hardly needs to add unnecessary conflict with left-leaning Cr Jim O’Malley to his list of challenges.

This week’s showdown between Mr Hawkins and Cr O’Malley — ostensibly about how the council should respond to the Government’s Three Waters reforms — adds to evidence not all is rosy or cosy for the council’s ascendant left bloc.

Discord on the Centre-Left was prominent during deliberations on the council’s 10-year plan.

This week’s shambles about Three Waters followed a farce on the same subject in September, when the mayor shut down a meeting as things got a bit complicated.

The dispute boils down to how stridently the council should challenge the Government’s drive to set up regional water services entities.

Mr Hawkins is perceived as being too yielding to the Government’s agenda.

Cr O’Malley may be too intransigent in formulating opposition and much of his criticism of the mayor can be countered with reasoned argument.

It is damaging, however.

With the broader public, a question mark hovers over the likeability of Mr Hawkins.

Inside the chamber, he can usually rely on deputy mayor Christine Garey and Crs David Benson-Pope, Marie Laufiso, Steve Walker and Chris Staynes for support.

Several more councillors have similar sympathies.

Pursuing a progressive agenda appears relatively straightforward.

It has, perhaps, been too easy.

Issues have festered.

Basics of relationship-building may well have been neglected.

A change in dynamics is evident.

Councillors have already presented Cr Vandervis with a mayoralty campaign gift via their enthusiasm for pushing up rates and debt.

Crs Radich and Carmen Houlahan have enough material to work with for their mayoralty campaigns.

Mr Hawkins articulates viewpoints well and he is usually a sound chairman.

A solid grasp of detail, fondness for public transport and concern about implications of climate change are attributes he shares with Cr O’Malley.

Giving Cr O’Malley lots of work to do as infrastructure services chairman was a wise move from the mayor.

Trouble is, the senior councillor feels the mayor has hindered his ability to carry out his role.

Irrespective of where blame lies, the mayor has a situation to manage.

Mr Hawkins and the Centre-Left have work to do to shore up the administration.





He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life standing on one leg! DCC and their Executive do not know what to do apart from continuing to dig their hole. They must be changed for something better at the next election.

Local elections not far off! But I differ somewhat from ODT's Grant Miller. First, IMO Hawkins is not 'articulate' but merely verbose. He talks a lot and at great length but expresses very little thought or even coherence. Try paraphrasing him and you will get something like this:

Secondly, commenting on local government in terms of Left, Right and Centre tends to obscure the fact that local government law requires all Councillors to make decisions independently and ONLY for the good of the city's present and future citizens. Since both Labour and the Greens have recently been openly ignoring this sensible provision of the law, I can understand why many people might now see local government in shades of Green, Red and Blue. But best local government decision-making is ad hoc: the best you can do at the time with what you've got and can afford. Not 'one size fits all'. Or it's not 'local'. IMO Party campaigning at local government level should be illegal.
Hawkins is a good example why: he has an inevitable conflict between loyalty to the city and the expectation of his Party, especially if he wants to be a MP one day.

And yet people vote for this sort of wish washy wannabe politician. It says a lot about the political intelligence of the average local government voters, that is there’s not much of it about!



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