Quick-fire forum brings out diverse views

Cr Jim O'Malley speaks at the Dunedin candidates meeting in Opoho last night. PHOTO: GERARD O...
Cr Jim O'Malley speaks at the Dunedin candidates meeting in Opoho last night. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Judging by the festive hat of the moderator, last night's Dunedin City Council candidate meeting was always going to be a circus.

However, it was the most strictly regimented circus you have seen.

Due to a few cancellations, 15 candidates, the first of two lots, sat on stage for the packed meeting at the Opoho Presbyterian Church.

The quick-fire forum led by Cat-in-the-Hat-inspired moderator Phil Somerville made the best of the situation by getting the audience familiar with the large group.

The crowd favourite seemed to be the Labour-endorsed Steve Walker, who differed from most candidates on whether he supported the one-way George St plans. He answered, "No, I think George St should be fully pedestrianised", drawing a large cheer.

His popularity was clear when following candidate Richard Seagar said: "I agree with everything Steve said."

However, the most popular candidate among peers was Cr Lee Vandervis. Four others chose him when asked who would get their mayoral vote if not themselves.

He drew puzzled looks from some after saying driving was the safest mode of transport.

The critic of council operations also delivered the best burn of the night to the organisation by answering "emperor penguin" to the question of his favourite bird, because of its ability to "survive in the most hostile climates".

Candidate John Marrable offered one of the more personal platforms as from his wheelchair he pledged to bring more accessibility to the city. Part of the way he would do this was more car parks, he said.

Outsider pledges included Peter Mackenzie's idea of speed differentials for trucks and cars and Jules Radich's pet project of a groyne at St Clair, as well as the introduction of two electric bus loops.

Mr Seagar pushed a climate change message and looked to examples set in European cities.

Cr Jim O'Malley mostly defended current council direction and spending, and rubbished the logistics of Mr Vandervis' suggestion to cut $60million from the George St redevelopment.

Cr Damian Newell formed something of a team with Mr O'Malley. He was one of a minority not saying the city needed more car parks, answering "we have a hell of a lot".

Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle was the most sceptical of climate change science, and the most ardent supporter of gas drilling.

The "circus" will continue at the church tonight when the other candidates take the stage.

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