Waterfront hotel biggest talking point

Andrew Whiley addresses the election forum in the Opoho Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, last night. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Andrew Whiley addresses the election forum in the Opoho Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, last night. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Cheers, jeers and even a yellow card were dealt to mayoral and council hopefuls at the often entertaining end to a two-night election forum in Opoho last night.

Issues such as oil and gas exploration, the proposed waterfront hotel development, fluoridation and public transport were discussed in front of more than 100 voters at the Opoho Presbyterian Church.

The hotel drew the biggest reaction, with many of the 17 council hopefuls welcoming the investment but not at its current height or proposed location.

However, deputy mayor Chris Staynes said that provided the backers could meet the resource consent, he supported the 27-storey hotel, as the ''city needs to think about its future''.

Olivier Lequeux said the city needed jobs but then picked up the only yellow card of the night - ruling him out of answering a question - when he bizarrely pointed out the percentage of people in the audience with grey hair.

Cr Richard Thomson said the hotel was the wrong size in the wrong place and it was a ''tragedy'' the developers did not engage with the council in advance to seek an appropriate solution.

Kevin Neill said 8000 homes had been doorknocked and 11,000 people spoken to as part of his campaign and he found the majority of people liked the idea of the hotel, just not the height or location.

Cr Lee Vandervis supported oil and gas exploration. He said he had witnessed the transformation that industry delivered for New Plymouth.

Regarding jobs, Francisco Hernandez said the city's youth unemployment rate was ''unacceptable'' and he called for more investment in training and a focus on creating smart, clean jobs.

''I want to support young people by giving us a voice in council.''

Cr Jinty MacTavish said the council now held fewer meetings behind closed doors, and was proud of the development of the strategic cycle network and work on an energy plan.

Andrew Whiley said he and his family had come from Vancouver a decade ago and while the Canadian city was regarded as world class, ''Dunedin has that and more''.

''The problem is we don't appreciate it.''

David Benson-Pope, after praising the council for its work on the Otago Peninsula and the Toitu Settlers Museum, contrasted that investment with a neglect of the central city.

Neville Peat said he would like 25,000 more people in the city, and the council needed to develop a compact city with the provision to build upwards rather than sprawl on to the peninsula or the food-producing area of the Taieri.

Tom Ross wanted more use made of Forsyth Barr Stadium - ''why aren't we promoting this wonderful venue?'' - while criticising spending on Toitu and the Dunedin Town Hall.

Warren Voight said he was concerned the city was becoming a ''regional backwater'' with its declining primary industry, high city debt and youth unemployment.

Cr Teresa Stevenson spoke of her values and her consistency on the council.

''I give a voice to the more marginalised, to the unemployed, to the people struggling in business, to the not so well off.''

In a light-hearted moment, Tat Loo asked people for their second preference vote by encouraging the audience to ''Tat two thank you''.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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