Infrastructure to open up housing land top of list

What do you know about the 14 candidates contesting the 2019 Dunedin mayoral elections? City council reporter Tim Miller puts the questions to Carmen Houlahan.

Carmen Houlahan
Carmen Houlahan
Former journalist and entrepreneur Carmen Houlahan wants to make the council more transparent and fair. Her first priority as mayor would be to increase investment in the city's infrastructure to open up more land for development to avoid a looming housing crisis. As well as working with the Otago Regional Council to create an improved public transport system, Mrs Houlahan wants to increase parking in the central city.

Why should you be mayor?

I'm an open, honest and fair person and I'll be pushing transparency - if people have an issue they want someone to come back to them with an answer within a reasonable amount of time, which I'll be pushing for. I'll push for a culture change where the council asks how it can help. I've got fresh ideas and I'm a new face.

What are your main priorities?

Housing and transport. We've had a reasonable increase in population but we've got a housing problem. There are plenty of areas around the city - Kaikorai Valley and the Taieri - where we can't develop because of a lack of infrastructure. So my first priority is investing in good infrastructure. It's also really hard to get around the city. It's hard to get a car park, which impacts people. We need a better public transport system - including commuter rail - and more car parks. I do understand climate change and the need for using our cars less, but that doesn't mean we cut out all parking either.

The Dunedin City Council is not responsible for public transport, so how will you achieve those goals?

I would immediately sit down with the Otago Regional Council and say this is a big issue for Dunedin residents and how can we improve this situation now?

What is the city doing well?

We've got a great start-up and entrepreneur sector. I'm a huge advocate of it and have been involved in the sector. We have companies which are taking things to the world. We should be harnessing the talent we have to improve the city. One of my policies would be a start-up weekend looking at all our problems - imagine the creative ideas which could flow from that. There needs to be a meaningful connection between the key players in the technology sector and the council.

Can you fulfil the role of mayor without any previous council experience?

It's a legitimate question and I do acknowledge it would be good to have a term under my belt. But the current mayor is standing down and there is an opportunity now. In my previous role as a journalist I covered council meetings, community boards, environment court and I'm aware of council processes. I feel like I would come in with more knowledge than many first-time councillors. My main role would be encouraging the skills and abilities of the other councillors. In terms of governance I'm an Institute of Directors member and am regularly increasing my skills in this area.

Would you make any changes to the council's policies on climate change.

You only need to read some of the research to see we've got a crisis looming and I think the council has been quite good in this area. There needs to be urgent action taken to protect South Dunedin and we need to show residents there is a risk mitigation plan. There are some big decisions which the next mayor and council need to face on South Dunedin, including the possibility of a managed retreat or some sort of large civil engineering project like a wall.


Carmen Houlahan

Age: 49.
Brought up: Dunedin.
Occupation: Entrepreneur.
Council experience: None; covered local government as a journalist.
Political orientation: Left but business oriented.
Describe yourself in three words: Open, honest and fair.


Housing land exists everywhere in the old warehouse and CBDs. Allow the redevelopment of Princes St and King Edward Sts' and surrounding areas by permitting multi-use low apartments. Most buildings are rotting away-open your eyes DCC.

We all need to face the fact that building a wall to keep the seas out may not work. The seas are stronger than walls & eventually South Dunedin may fall back to tidal swamp- we do not have an extra $ billion to stop the seas. We spent $300m just on the white elephant.

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