Less debt, more parking and promotion on agenda

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

Lee Vandervis.
Lee Vandervis.


Lee Vandervis

Age: 64
Occupation: City councillor
Political orientation: No particular leanings, environmental but not Green
Brought up: Balclutha
Describe yourself in three words: Locally focused, organised and successful


Four-term councillor Lee Vandervis is back again for his sixth attempt at the mayoralty. Cr Vandervis says the council's debt levels and financial situation makes the next mayoral term a poisoned chalice.

He wants the council to sell at least a part of the Aurora Energy network to reduce the debt levels and stop the streetscape upgrades of George St. Increasing commuter parking and promoting Dunedin's cultural heritage are two of his priorities.

Why should you be mayor?

I'm the only candidate who has the experience - both in business and politics - to run the biggest business all the city's residents have a share in. For someone to be in charge of a multimillion-dollar-a-year company - if they haven't run a business before - is frightening.

What makes you qualified for the job?

My extensive business leadership experience - in the United Kingdom, Australia and Dunedin - and since 2004 my extensive but not always happy experience in local body politics.

What are your top priorities?

More parking - commuter parking in particular. It's about looking after the bulk of people who have been left behind. We've had a lot of planet-saving fundamentalism in the past nine years.

Mayor Cull has said reducing the number of car parks each year will help residents' health and businesses. I believe he was completely misguided. We also need to promote Dunedin more.

We promote sports fairly well and we've got good sports facilities but we have a rich cultural heritage nobody has ever made any money off of. People don't understand we have a potential monetising of the arts here which could be vast.

One of your campaign pledges is less debt. How do you achieve that?

We have a billion dollars of collective debt; we keep bailing out not asset but liabilities. Aurora is a screaming red ink liability and it will get worse. We need to look seriously at selling the company - ideally the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes parts - and if that happens we can still have our own lines company here.

That will dramatically reduce the debt, which is costing us $40million a year in interest. The amount of spending since I called for a rates freeze three years ago has been so dramatic we simply can't do it. We are stuck with an average 5% rates increase and higher electricity lines chargers, because of ongoing gross mismanagement.

Mayor Cull has not been interested in looking at council companies and their lack of dividends so we are in for a really tough time. The mayoralty this time around is a poisoned chalice.

So anything can be cut?

The first thing we can do is stop the $60 million George St upgrade - it's just surface treatments. We do the same for the $20 million upgrade of the streets around the university.

We need to defer the bridge to the waterfront - there's another $14 million. There are lots of other opportunities for us to say this spending is unnecessary and not needed.

Are you able to work constructively with the other councillors?

I have a long history in business getting the best out of the team I had. I know the existing councillors well enough to have a strategy to get the best out of each of them - even Cr Benson-Pope - and I've been on council long enough to be in a good position because I don't have an agenda of my own.

What about your relationships with council staff and chief executive Sue Bidrose?

My relationship with Sue Bidrose hasn't been a happy one. Largely because my relationship with the mayor hasn't been a happy one and Dr Bidrose has done whatever the mayor has asked. Even when - I believe - it goes against her job description.

Will that be an issue if you're mayor?

As a councillor it has been a problem; as mayor I think it will be much less of a problem.


View all

Mr. Vandervis describes himself as "environmental but not Green" and then declares his top priority is more parking for commuters. Commuting by car and environmental doesn't go together. But I suppose for Mr. Vandervis more environmental options like public transport or cycling fall into the category of "planet-saving fundamentalism". Sigh.

The thing is Thor, electric cars need parking too do they not?, and when people in petrol cars look for non existent parks what do you think they do?....they drive round the block a half dozen times. There are people who care about pollutionin the environment but don't buy into the man made global warming nonsense...the earth has only warmed 1 degree and since industrialization started and that started right in the middle of the little ice age, so the stated warming is a bit of a cheat isn't it. The warming has had zero negative effects and the extra co2 has greened the planet, so you have to ask ya self whether or not a city that's heavily in debt should be spending money on something that is of no consequence at all, like "Global Warming. Half the councilors who claim to be greenies were happy to put the City in debt to build a stadium at sea level...how does that go with global warming and sea level rise?, Vandervis wasn't one of them in case you were wondering.

"The Stadium" is one of the prime reasons Dunedin's economic standing, population and forecasts have shown such improvement. The value as Jim O'Malley so rightly suggests is impossible to assess yet has enduring impact. We would have been forgotten without it!

He was not one of the ones ... Seriously... he dosent agree with much at all, safe bet....
Negitive Nelly dosen't get tbe job done.
Picking holes in anything is easy, solutions are not. The artical above picks holes, bags peoole but has no actual substance of what to do to fix the issues.

Thor, we are all environmental or should be but we are not all Green or need to be green, the smart ones know there is a balance of ensuring we look after the envioriment but don't take anything away from. the current standard of living until such time there is a suitable replacement or replacement.

Perhaps the only man worth voting for. I think he is clever positioning himself as environmental but not green because when one uses the word Green in New Zealand everybody immediately thinks “the ineffective dregs of the lunatic fringe”. We need clean water and environmentally responsible business. We also need jobs growth and a future for our kids that is not overwhelmed with debt.

Google the Cr's name. It dosen't take a rocket scientist to join the dots that he is not a team player. “the ineffective dregs of the lunatic fringe" yes that dose apply to this Cr !!
Job growth, how dose this Cr increase job numbers with his abusive persona? Exports to China gone in one of his rants, never to return. Throwing toys out if the cot is childish and unproductive, sddly this is his go to when anyone disagrees with him.

He seems to be one of the few (at times only) person in the DCC to ask do we need this spending? For that I am thankful. I wish the DCC asked its ratepayers (and not lobbyists) for any project over say, $5m via postal ballot to vote in favour/against a project. If we were told of the costs/benefits then allowed to vote, then maybe we would not have approx. $1 billion of DCC group debt around our necks.

A postal ballot costs approx $0.25m per vote- that is peanuts compared with what the DCC has spent/mis-allocated in the last 10 years on various projects. Let us have a real democracy and not the motions.

The guys a total deficit thinker totally lacking in EQ. How he thinks for one second he could lead people of different persuasions or even work with others is beyond me. He clearly doesn't even understand himself!

My relationship with Sue Bidrose hasn't been a happy one. Largely because my relationship with the mayor hasn't been a happy one and Dr Bidrose has done whatever the mayor has asked. Even when - I believe - it goes against her job description.

Will that be an issue if you're mayor?

As a councillor it has been a problem; as mayor I think it will be much less of a problem.

Seriously you think she will stick arround if you are elected.... lol guess again.

View all