Intense election battle looming

Many are seeking to unseat Incumbent mayor Lianne Dalziel, but they will have a battle on their hands.
Many are seeking to unseat Incumbent mayor Lianne Dalziel, but they will have a battle on their hands.
James Gough's decision not to run for mayor comes as no surprise.

He had hinted for months that he might have a crack at the top job. But when businessman Darryll Park announced last week he would run against Lianne Dalziel, it was clear Gough wouldn't.

For some time now there have been discussions between various business people in Christchurch on how they can unseat Dalziel, and Gough appeared to be their best hope.

Much of that discussion and planning has centred around Gough's plans. If he ran, they wouldn't back another right-leaning candidate which would split the vote and give Dalziel a big advantage to secure her third term.

Park's nomination came as a surprise, but he doe shave the backing of various business people in the city.

Whether Park has the charisma and public profile to woo the voters remains to be seen. The election is two months away He will need a strong marketing and promotion campaign to get him the mainstream media coverage he will need to build a public profile.

He is up against a formidable and experienced political campaigner in Dalziel. She has also been well-liked by voters, given her large winning majorities at the previous two elections,

In 2013, she pulled just over 72,000 votes, 50,000 more than her closest rival Paul Lonsdale. In 2016, she received just over 75,0000 votes compare dot her closest rival John Minto (13,114).

Minto too is back in the race this year.

Lonsdale, who had considered running again this year pulled out of the race this week like Gough, no doubt to voters a clear right-leaning candidate to vote for.

Dalziel has governed the city council ship steadily in very tough times with the ongoing nuances around the progress of the rebuild. Sitting mayors have a good history in Christchurch of being voted back in.

But chlorination of the city's water supply, the state of the roads and the inevitable increases in rates will no doubt play into Park's hands. As too might the publicity that surrounded the recent appointment and pay of the new city council chief executive.

Restless people in the eastern suburbs who have had to put up with slow progress after the 2011 quake could also be an Achilles heel for Dalziel in terms of their support.

Another major election battle is brewing for seats around the council table.

The left currently holds a very minor sway. Seven of the 16 councillors are from left-leaning and Labour-aligned The People's Choice, and while they don't have a clear majority they have relied on the support of Vicki Buck, and independent, on issues.

Whether to sell or not to sell city council-owned assets will be a key election issue.

Park told The Star yesterday he is open to investigating asset sales; Dalziel has no intention to back council selling them off to private investors.

So what we have shaping is a Labour v National type of local body election here in Christchurch. That's not that different from previous elections but for some reason, this one feels like it's going to get a lot more intense.

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