Mayors aim to contain costs

Southern councils are in for a shake-up after voters demanding change across Otago handed the mayoral chains to four new leaders.

In Dunedin, outgoing mayor Peter Chin paid the price for backing the $198 million Forsyth Barr Stadium, with a wave of unrest over the project and the city's debt helping Cr Dave Cull seize the mayoral chains.

Elsewhere, long-serving incumbent mayors Malcolm Macpherson (Central Otago) and Juno Hayes (Clutha) were both unseated, while Cr Vanessa van Uden won her bid to replace outgoing Queenstown Lakes mayor Clive Geddes and become the district's first female mayor.

Dunedin's contest turned into a comfortable victory for Cr Cull, who won 21,757 votes, well ahead of Mr Chin, with 14,084 votes, and third-placed Lee Vandervis, with 5917 votes.

It was the first time since 1995 a sitting mayor had been ousted in Dunedin, and Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times his initial reaction was "relief".

He believed the vote was a mandate for change.

"We have to engage a lot more constructively and genuinely."

Mr Chin was yesterday looking forward to stepping down from public life.

He accepted the majority had not agreed with many of the decisions the council had made, and, as mayor, he had taken the brunt of that.

However, he did not resile from the record of the councils he had led.

"I'm comfortable with the decision processes that have been gone through, and the decisions made over the years."

The trio were followed by four other Dunedin mayoral aspirants, led by Aaron Hawkins (1527 votes), Olivier Lequeux (1164), Kevin Dwyer (197) and Jimmy Knowles (124).

The election also claimed two more high-profile casualties, with incumbent councillors Richard Walls and Michael Guest both cast aside in favour of former Otago District Health Board chairman Richard Thomson, former councillor Mr Vandervis, and Jinty MacTavish - the youngest councillor at just 25.

Controversy over council finances also drew higher numbers to the ballot box, with 45,240 voters having their say as turnout in Dunedin rose to 52.49%, up from 47.47% three years ago.

Mr Cull told TV3's The Nation that he aimed to "cut operating costs without touching services".

The focus on finances was not unique to Dunedin, with the need to control rates a key focus for new Queenstown Lakes mayor Ms van Uden.

She received 5087 votes, twice as many as her nearest rival, Simon Hayes.

Ms van Uden said she would be focused on finding ways to reduce pressure on rates.

In the Central Otago district, three-term mayor Mr Macpherson was unseated by long-serving councillor and deputy mayor Tony Lepper, who received 38% of the vote and was 549 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Alexandra businessman Jeff Hill, who took 31% of the vote.

Mr Macpherson received just over 30%.

In the Clutha district, Bryan Cadogan was celebrating at his Balclutha home after unseating Mr Hayes by 354 votes.

Waitaki district voters were the only ones to retain their leader, with Alex Familton returned for a second term with 4545 votes.

His nearest challenger was deputy mayor Gary Kircher (3362).


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