Mayoral Profile: Aaron Hawkins

Student radio broadcaster Aaron Hawkins is running for mayor and as a city councillor in Dunedin....
Student radio broadcaster Aaron Hawkins is running for mayor and as a city councillor in Dunedin. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Student radio broadcaster Aaron Hawkins (26) is stepping out from behind the microphone, hoping to pursue his passion for politics and change Dunedin for the better.

Aaron Hawkins

Age: 26

Marital/family status: Not married, living with partner, no children.

Occupation: Broadcaster.

Council experience: None.

Running for: Mayor and council (central ward).

Mr Hawkins, a morning radio host for Radio One 91FM in Dunedin, is running for mayor as well as for seat on the council, saying he hopes to unseat "stale" civic leaders and inject new life into a "stagnant" Dunedin City Council.

Why are you standing?

I have spent a decade now watching our city council drift further away from its constituents, further behind closed doors, and something has to be done about that, primarily.

I am a firm believer in open government and not needing security clearance to go and talk to my elected officials.

I think Dunedin has two choices at the election in October - to elect a stale mayor and council, running more of the same stagnant status quo, or electing a mayor and council with vision and passion and ideas.

The DCC has shown time and again that they have no ideas for promoting or sustaining the city of Dunedin beyond failed think-big 1970s ideology, which did not work then and I do not see working now.

What are the major issues facing Dunedin?

I think graduate retention is a big issue in terms of keeping people in Dunedin, setting up businesses in Dunedin and creating jobs for Dunedin people.

I do not think we can sit back and wait for industry to provide opportunities for us.

We need to encourage people to setup their own jobs and industries here in Dunedin.

I think heritage preservation is a big thing.

Dunedin needs to capitalise on what is some fairly stunning heritage architecture, particularly between the Octagon and the Oval, and anything that's done to damage that is hugely detrimental.

But also heritage not necessarily as a museum piece, but also as a living, breathing thing.

Promote and support the cultural community, be that the music scene, or the arts community, or the theatre company, or fashion week, or the Fringe Festival or the Southern Sinfonia, or whatever.

I think public transport is something that needs to be taken care of.

The ORC [Otago Regional Council] - it's a historical anomaly essentially, that they are in charge of our bus system, and I do not see how elected officials in Queenstown should tell me how often and when my buses run from Stafford St to the University.

An efficient public transport system would open up far more of the city, for example to the student population, which would help ease the ghettoisation and flow-on effects of the North Dunedin area.

If people can live in South Dunedin, where it's cheaper, and still get around the city to the University or to Polytechnic or their part-time jobs, or whatever, they will be presented with more options.

And I think the quality of rental accommodation needs to be addressed across the board, whether it's student accommodation or beneficiaries in social housing in South Dunedin.

Dunedin is a very cold place and I think there needs to be more pressure put on landlords to maintain decent living standards.

The World Health Organisation suggests houses should be 18degC or warmer, which is kind of a joke in Dunedin.

The positive affects on productivity of people not taking so many sick days are sort of self-evident.

You would not be able to rent, if you were running a car rental company, with cars that are unsafe.

I do not see why you should be able to get away with renting unsafe housing.

This would be an ongoing dialogue between the council and landlords, but I think the DCC needs to take responsibility for it and lead by example by upgrading and maintaining its own housing stocks, whether it's social housing or market rental stuff they own in Dunedin already.

In terms of public transport, you are saying responsibility for operating the bus network should be transferred to the city council?Definitely.

And would you support additional funding for the network?

Yes, whatever it takes to make it run.

The fact it is so under-utilised is an indication it is running so poorly.

I think it would not cost as much, because it would be better patronised if it was an operating service.

What is your vision for Dunedin, and how will you make it happen?

Dunedin is a small city by international standards, but I think it can become an international destination, particularly on cultural lines.

Dunedin has a reputation internationally as being a creative and vibrant city and there are already people that, when they are touring - say bands touring New Zealand - that will make an effort to come here because they understand that.

I think we need to look at examples like Portland, in Oregon, and Austin, Texas.

Portland in particular was a single-industry town that got in behind its cultural economy and cultural sector and is now an international destination for people to live and setup and work and record and bring their families and all the flow-on positive economic effects of that to their city.

It already is there [in Dunedin].

The talent is there and the drive is there, and I think all it needs is more support and promotion from the city council to do that.

But I do not think that's going to happen unless something is done about the infrastructure in Dunedin.

What strengths would you bring as mayor?

I am first and foremost very, very passionate about Dunedin and it's future.

I want to see it survive and be sustainable for generations to come, so that I can live here.

I am also very passionate about politics - an obsession that's gone back now about 19 years, which is a fairly high percentage of my living years.

I also think the relationship between the city and the university, and in particular the permanent residents and the student population, has been fairly strained in recent years.

It's been somewhat antagonistic, I think, on both sides.

As someone who is comparatively younger than the other mayoral candidates, and someone who has for the last decade operated within the university campus and with that population, I could offer a lot in trying to bridge that gap between the permanent residents of the city and the student population.

Also, I have spent a decade now working in the entertainment industry, in the music industry and performing arts.

I am more than willing to offer my knowledge and contacts and networks and services to Dunedin Venues Management [Ltd] for the purposes of making the best of the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

I think regardless of how people feel about the planning and consultation around that, everyone has to work together to make that not fail.

That's city council, that's the university, that's the polytechnic, that's the community, residents, everyone.

It's in no-one's interests for it to fail and I am more than happy to help guide that along.

What community involvement have you had?

I have worked as a volunteer for the student association, up until they eventually gave me a job three years ago.

If you stick around long enough people will eventually hire you.

How are you funding your campaign?

I am. I am more than grateful if people want to donate money to it [the campaign], but at this stage it's largely mine.

Have you received any donations?

Yeah, a couple of minor ones and I had a fundraising campaign launched a few weeks ago.

So how much do you think you will be spending?

Definitely less than $5000.

How would you describe your politics?

Environmentally responsible and, if anything on a spectrum, probably centre-left.

Who have you voted for nationally?

I voted for [Dunedin North MP] Pete Hodgson, I think, in the last three elections and for the Green Party.

Who are your supporters?

Intelligent people with a passion for Dunedin's future and people who are sick of being dictated to by the old boy's club who have had such a monopoly on power in Dunedin for far too long.


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