Mayoral profile: Kevin Dwyer

Dunedin horticulturist Kevin Dwyer, standing in his second Dunedin City Council election, says...
Dunedin horticulturist Kevin Dwyer, standing in his second Dunedin City Council election, says the city needs a mayor with vision, rather than a fence-sitter. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
What do you know about the candidates who are contesting Dunedin's mayoral campaign in 2013? Today, reporter Chris Morris puts the questions to Kevin Dwyer.

Self employed Port Chalmers horticulturist Kevin Dwyer is back for a second tilt at public office in Dunedin.

The 61-year-old is standing for mayor and a council seat, in the belief the city's economy needs fixing, and he is the man for the job.

The city faces serious issues, including unemployment and land ownership issues that are stifling growth, and the city's last two mayors have sat on the fence and ignored them, he said.

The campaign was his second bid for the mayoralty, following an unsuccessful campaign in 2010, but Mr Dwyer says a failure to try again would show he lacked character.

Why are you standing?

Because of the state of the economy and the town.

Can you expand on that?

Well, the unemployment's the highest it's been for 20 years and I think the present mayor doesn't have any vision. There's no reason why Dunedin shouldn't be a prosperous city, but it seems to lack decisive leadership.

What are the major issues you see facing the city?

One of the main ones is the ownership of the land around the waterfront.

The leasehold land?

The leasehold land, yes. I was talking to the dux of my old school, St Bede's, and he said that it would take an Act of Parliament to sort it out. I think the mayor would be better off doing that, than trying to sort out the student flats.

What should be done to resolve that?

It should be made freehold. Some of it is freehold. It's owned by the person who owns the Southern Cross Hotel [Earl Hagaman] and he was against the other hotel coming in.

What should the mayor's role be in addressing that?  Should he be championing that?

Yes, and then we can attract industries to come here, because we've got a stable labour market. The Government says we're too far from the markets - we're actually closer to Australia than they are.

What are the other major issues you see?

The airport. I'd like to extend the runway so it can take international flights.

Who would pay for that and what would the benefits be?

As far as I know, the land is there. They already have the land. One of my platforms is selling off the stadium and leasing it back and releasing that debt, paying off some of the debt, and investing in projects that can help the city.

Do you think there would be a buyer for the stadium?

Yes, there are buyers out there.

Who do you think would be a frontrunner?

It could be a consortium. It could be someone from overseas. You have got a new building with secure tenants, you see.

But it's also running at a loss, so is that an attractive investment for an outside group?

Someone pointed out to me, if you've got an old student flat down at the university, it's not worth the same as a million-dollar house up in Maori Hill, is it, that's being let out as well. There's no reason it can't be made to run at a profit if it attracted more business. It sits idle a lot of the time.

Do you think the council or DVML are incapable of doing that?

I would think we're probably better off out of it. We didn't own Carisbrook and the rugby union seemed to run that.

What's your vision for the city and how will you make it happen?

The vision is just to use the talent that's already here and project it out to the rest of the world. We've got the ability to do that now. The planet's never been more connected, with the internet and stuff.

What would be the first thing you would do to promote that vision of the city?

I would probably hire a public relations firm to do that. It's probably worth spending the money - someone like Saatchi & Saatchi.

You've run before, unsuccessfully, so why are you standing again, and what strengths would you bring as mayor?

The reason I'm standing is because I think I would be able to stand up to some of the people, to try to fight for the city, much the same as [Mayor Tim] Shadbolt in Invercargill ... the previous two mayors have been fence-sitters. They haven't been prepared to get out there and tackle the major issues that are facing the city. That's why the city's in a state of decline.

You've stood unsuccessfully before though, so what makes this bid different? Why are you doing it again?

If you don't succeed at first, try again. If you give up too easily, it means you haven't got any character.

How many times have you run before?

This is my second time.

What community involvement have you had?

Mainly I've been involved in martial arts in the town.

What sort?

Kung fu.

Is that through a Dunedin club?

We had our own club.

Were you involved in running it?

Yes, with another man, a Chinese man.

How do you think your kung fu skills would help resolve political stoushes?

It gives you sort of a clearer vision.

Does it help you convince people?

I'd like to think so. It probably means that you won't back down when someone's having a go at you. We actually trained with the Mongrel Mob at one stage. What we planned to do was bring them back into the community, that was our aim, and a lot of people didn't like it.

So you were teaching the Mongrel Mob kung fu?


And some people took that the wrong way?

They did, but we didn't really care, because we knew what we wanted to do.

Are you still involved in kung fu?

I just practise at home, mainly.

How do you fund your campaign?

Just from my own personal earnings.

So you haven't received any donations?


And how much do you think you'll spend this time?

Not very much. I've had a few legal expenses to cover. It involved a family dispute.

So you'd be looking at less than $1000?

Probably, yes.

How would you describe your politics?

I'm probably more Labour than anything else, because I have done a lot of labouring work in my life. They don't seem to be getting a very good deal at the moment.

So do you traditionally vote Labour in the national elections?

Usually, yes.

Who would you say your supporters are?

Probably the poorer section of the community, I would think. I'm not really tied up with any big business concerns, like some of the other candidates.

Kevin Dwyer

Age: 61

Family/marital status: Single, no children.

Occupation: Self-employed horticulturist.

Council experience: None, second council bid, former member Dunedin Ratepayers and Householders Association.

Running for: Mayor and council.

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