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Regular clashes in council and defamation action were put aside for a moment yesterday when Cr Lee Vandervis made a surprise pronouncement he would pick Dave Cull to be mayor if he did not win the post.
Cr Vandervis, who has a $500,000 defamation claim against the mayor following a heated exchange during a Dunedin City Council meeting last year, was responding to a question at the Otago Chamber of Commerce/Otago Daily Times mayoral candidates forum at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery yesterday.
He was the first called on to answer what was the last question at the forum: which person candidates would say would be second-best mayor if they did not win at the October 8 council elections.
Before an audience of about 60 people, and a surprised ''Thank you'' from Mr Cull, Cr Vandervis said Mr Cull was an excellent speaker, a ''natural front man'' and a hard worker, though he said he wondered what the mayor did during ''all that time he spends in China''.
Mr Cull did not return the favour. Instead, he called into question those taking a shot at the mayoralty when they had never served time as councillors. Seven of the 11 candidates have no council experience.
Mr Cull said it was not possible to ''parachute into the role'' and be able to be on top of it from day one. The three years he spent as councillor were only just enough to prepare him for the mayoralty.
Mr Cull chose Cr Aaron Hawkins as the next best candidate. Cr Hawkins did return Mr Cull's favour.
The forum allowed candidates three minutes each to tell the audience about themselves, and about what they would do for business and economic development. Organisers' questions were then put to candidates, before the audience had the chance to put questions.
Cr Andrew Whiley was asked by an audience member why economic development would be successful in future if he were mayor, when, as Cr Whiley had said, it had not been during the time he was deputy chairman of the council economic development committee.
Cr Whiley responded when he put ideas forward he was ''shot down''. He said the council was controlled by a bloc of voters.
Barry Timmings was asked why he was standing only for the mayoralty and not as a councillor. He replied: ''You can't lead from the back of the bus.''