Vandervis accused of electioneering attack on staff

Lee Vandervis.
Lee Vandervis.
Dunedin city councillor Lee Vandervis has been accused of electioneering after turning a procedural item at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting into an attack on council staff.

Tensions began to rise at the meeting when attention turned to the 2013-14 draft annual plan, which councillors had to approve before it could be released for public consultation.

Instead, Cr Vandervis and told the meeting the draft, as it stood, did not have his ''full confidence''.

That was because of the quality of recent reports by council staff to councillors, as well as the ''diabolical'' handling of the sale of Carisbrook, he said.

He cited the ''enormous'' variation in figures presented to councillors about the sale of Carisbrook as one example of the ''convoluted'' reports that left him with ''an increasing level of distrust''.

''The distrust has been getting worse for more than a year now,'' he said.

''I no longer have the confidence that we are getting accurate information from staff.''

His comments prompted a retort from Cr Syd Brown, who accused Cr Vandervis of electioneering eight months out from voting day.

''It really concerns me that we are obviously in election year and electioneering has started, but it really concerns me that staff and their ability ... is brought into disrepute in debate.

''They are being used as a pawn in someone's electioneering,'' he said.

Instead, Cr Brown praised staff for their work, which was ''of the highest order'', and chided Cr Vandervis for trying to disrupt the council's consultation with its community.

''If you are going to vote against it, therefore you are saying to the community 'we don't want to consult with you'.

''I think the community can then take what they like from the result of that voting pattern,'' Cr Brown said.

Cr Vandervis' comments came after he was banned from talking to council staff in 2011, after giving orders to some - and describing others as ''dogs'' - in a series of angry emails. That ban was lifted only in December last year, more than a year after it was imposed.

There were more terse words yesterday when deputy mayor Chris Staynes proposed a series of amendments tweaking the draft plan before it was released for consultation.

The changes included inserting a summary of key changes, more information about stadium debt and the proposed events attraction fund, and a diagram summarising the financial interaction between Dunedin Venues Management Ltd and Dunedin Venues Ltd, among other changes.

The idea raised the hackles of Crs Fliss Butcher and Bill Acklin, who objected to the volume of last-minute changes. Mayor Dave Cull rejected that, saying the draft was circulated last week and any councillor was free to recommend changes at yesterday's meeting.

Those proposed by Cr Staynes were editorial tweaks, and there was ''nothing untoward or improper about trying to get things right'', Mr Cull said.

Councillors eventually voted to approve the draft plan, including Cr Staynes' amendments, for public consultation, which would begin on March 9 and close at 5pm on April 9.

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