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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.
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.