Mayoral contenders find something they can agree on

The first Dunedin mayoral debate in the 2022 campaign produced some feisty discussion about subjects that ranged from trans rights to why students should care about local politics, and there was a rare moment of agreement between Lee Vandervis and Aaron Hawkins.

The debate was hosted by the Otago University Students’ Association and it took place in front of a polite audience of about 50. All the mayoral contenders were there, except for Bill Acklin and Pamela Taylor.

Agreement between Mr Hawkins, who is seeking re-election, and Cr Vandervis, who has been an arch-rival, sprang out of a question about why there was not a pedestrian crossing outside the Clubs and Societies Centre in Albany St.

Cr Vandervis, who had driven a 10-tonne truck there, said traffic-calming measures seemed sufficient.

Mr Hawkins said adding a pedestrian crossing might appear to be an easy fix, but designing the street so it was safer to cross at various points seemed to be the most effective approach longer term.

Candidate David Milne indicated his mayoralty style would be to get out the paint himself, but he was put in his place by Cr Carmen Houlahan, who advised council processes did not work like that.

Candidate Mandy Mayhem-Bullock, one of the more lively performers on the night, suggested a rainbow crossing.

The question came from fifth-year student Josh Stewart, who noted agreement about the need for safety, but said the existing environment fell short of that.

Asked about trans rights and changing areas at Moana Pool, most candidates — including Mr Hawkins and Sophie Barker — affirmed trans women were women, or trans rights were human rights.

Dunedin mayoral candidates (from left) Lee Vandervis, Jules Radich, Richard Seager, Aaron Hawkins...
Dunedin mayoral candidates (from left) Lee Vandervis, Jules Radich, Richard Seager, Aaron Hawkins, Carmen Houlahan, Jett Groshinski, Sophie Barker, Mandy Mayhem-Bullock and David Milne did their best to engage with University of Otago students in a forum in the main common room last night. Photo: Linda Robertson
Cr Vandervis said any problem for pool staff to deal with would be rare and he was "not into spending more money" to deal with issues that might arise.

Richard Seager wanted all cars gone from the university precinct.

Jett Groshinski, a mayoral candidate and student, said he wanted to bring a student perspective to the council.

Cr Jules Radich said he wanted students to be able to access more rubbish and recycling services.

Cr Houlahan wanted more action to foster performing arts in Dunedin, including a decision about the former Sammy’s venue, which is owned by the council.

Cr Barker urged students to vote, "because this is your city, and you live here".