Packed field for mayoral battle

Former paralympic swimmer and community board candidate Jenny Newstead gets her paperwork in,...
Former paralympic swimmer and community board candidate Jenny Newstead gets her paperwork in, just minutes before the close of nominations for local body elections in Dunedin. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The race for the mayoral robes and chain is under way across the South as a packed field lines up for Dunedin's contest.

By noon yesterday, when nominations for local body elections closed, 14 candidates - including six incumbent city councillors - had entered the race to replace outgoing Mayor Dave Cull at the head of the Dunedin City Council.

Mr Cull's decision to depart, announced earlier this year, had thrown the door open to a wide range of contenders, up from the 11 candidates who contested the mayoral election in 2016.

Lining up for the top job this time were Crs Jim O'Malley, Lee Vandervis, Christine Garey, Aaron Hawkins, Rachel Elder and Andrew Whiley, and eight other candidates from outside the council.

Another 37 candidates had put their hands up for one of the 14 other seats around the council table, slightly down on the 43 candidates who stood in 2016.

And, as the clock ticked towards noon yesterday, there were some last-minute surprises.

Dunedin businessman Russell Lund was among those to confirm he would seek a council seat, while incumbent Cr Conrad Stedman confirmed he would not, after just one term as a city councillor.

Two of Dunedin's six community boards - West Harbour and Strath-Taieri - would also be elected unopposed in October, after just six nominees were received for the six vacancies on each.

Elsewhere, two southern mayors - Clutha's Bryan Cadogan and Gore's Tracy Hicks - would be re-elected automatically after challengers failed to materialise, while other mayors would face challengers.

The race for the Otago Regional Council, which already promised to be a hotly contested affair, went up another gear yesterday, when outgoing chairman Stephen Woodhead confirmed he would not seek a council seat either.

The return of an elected Southern District Health Board has also stimulated interest, including from Mr Cull - now seeking a health board seat and possibly to become its chairman - and 27 other candidates.

In Dunedin, the last-minute rush of candidates seeking to complete their nominations kept electoral office staff busy.

More than 40 nominations for the DCC or its community boards, the Southern District Health Board or Otago Regional Council had been received in the 24 hours before yesterday's deadline.

At least 14 of the nominations had arrived yesterday morning. Some were by email, while others were rushed in by candidates clutching paperwork and cellphones.

The last to do so was Jenny Newstead, a former Paralympic swimmer, who arrived with just three minutes to go, but completed the process in time.

She told the Otago Daily Times she had hoped to arrive sooner, but had found herself busy with work and parking was a problem.

"It wasn't meant to be last minute. It's just the way it ended up."

Deputy electoral officer Sharon Bodeker said the nominations had been "really steady" yesterday, but the use of a new online enrolment process had helped smooth the flow of paperwork in recent weeks.

Despite that, one potential candidate had to be turned away yesterday after failing to enrol in time, while another enrolled while walking to the electoral office.

"If it's last-minute and things aren't right, that makes it a bit trickier," she said.

Voting documents would be delivered beginning on September 20 and polls would close at noon on October 12.

Dunedin mayoral hopefuls

Scout Barbour-Evans, Bob Barlin, Finn Campbell, Rachel Elder, Christine Garey, Aaron Hawkins, Carmen Houlahan, Mandy Mayhem-Bullock, Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle, Jim O’Malley, Jules Radich, Richard Seager, Lee Vandervis, Andrew Whiley.




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