Plans for local body Labour candidates

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Plans by the Labour Party to stand candidates in Dunedin's local body elections - including the Dunedin City Council - have been cautiously welcomed by Mayor Dave Cull but questioned by some incumbent councillors.

The leadership of Labour's Dunedin branches has written to party members, advising them of plans to stand one candidate each in elections for the DCC, the Dunedin ward of the Otago Regional Council and the Otago ward of the Southern District Health Board.

The decision has been endorsed by the party's New Zealand Council, and April 30 is the deadline for nominations.

Labour representatives in Dunedin did not respond to Otago Daily Times requests for comment about their plans yesterday, but some city councillors expressed concern.

That included Cr Christine Garey, a first-term councillor and potential mayoral candidate, who believed there should be no place for party politics around the council table.

''I don't believe they belong ... I think it muddies the waters hugely.

''It shouldn't be about party politics at grassroots level,'' she said.

That also applied, ''with all due respect'', to incumbent Green Party councillors Aaron Hawkins'  and Cr Marie Laufiso’s well-publicised affiliations, she added.

Cr Jim O'Malley also opposed the development, saying party affiliations caused politically-aligned councillors to caucus before votes, and Labour's move could encourage other parties to follow suit.

The party's move was a repeat of 2016, when Labour also signalled plans for a ''Local Labour'' ticket, promoting candidates for council seats and possibly the mayoralty.

It would have been a throwback to previous decades, when party-affiliated council tickets were more common, as they remained in some countries, including England.

However, the party's Dunedin initiative was axed in its infancy later in 2016, when the party dropped the idea, months after another political grouping - the Greater Dunedin initiative, headed by Mr Cull - also disbanded.

That left Cr Hawkins, a Green Party candidate for council and mayor, as the only official party candidate at the council table.

Labour's decision to dust off the concept now could also create an issue for incumbent city councillor David Benson-Pope, a former Dunedin South Labour MP and Cabinet minister, who remains a party member.

Cr Benson-Pope has stood as an independent candidate to secure his seat at the DCC table, and said yesterday he was not involved - nor interested in being involved - in Labour's new initiative.

''I'll be standing on the same basis as I did previously, as an independent with very strong Labour leanings, no less.''

However, under the rules of the party's constitution, any Labour Party member standing against a Labour-endorsed candidate would ''get drummed out of the party and get your buttons ripped off'', he confirmed.

He did not know if that would apply at a local body level, or if there was only one Labour candidate seeking one of the 15 seats at the DCC table, and had no plans to find out.

''It's of no concern or interest to me. I'm not bothered about it, whatever transpires.

''I won't be wasting any time on it.''

Mr Cull said he had also heard ''murmurings'' of Labour's plans, but was not against them.

While such a move could create issues, if councillors were told how to vote by their party, the discipline imposed by a party could also be positive, especially if a party-affiliated councillor got ''completely out of order''.

''Independent candidates, as we know, are not answerable to anybody.''

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