ODT 2013.3

Articles that have appeared in Allied Press publication Otago Daily Times from September 16, 2013.

Editorial, photos and pictures of persons related to articles are those published by the ODT and available from its online content at the links provided. Break out quotes and voting information amended in table format are my tweaks.


Cull says hope still for Invermay jobs

By Vaughan Elder on Mon, 16 Sep 2013

A phone call from AgResearch’s chairman has given Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull hope political pressure is being applied to keep jobs at Invermay.

Mr Cull was speaking last night at a mayoral forum at Sidey Hall, in Caversham, where the prospects of saving jobs at Invermay, drilling for oil and gas, rates and council debt were among the issues discussed.

Responding to comments from candidates Andrew Whiley and Cr Lee Vandervis suggesting it was too late to reverse a decision to shift 85 jobs from Invermay, Mr Cull said the effort to save jobs at the facility was not a ”lost cause”.



Lee Vandervis

Elections 2013

Wed, 16 Sep 2013

Lee Vandervis (58)
City councillor, former businessman

1. Voters are concerned about regional development. What would you do to encourage employment and growth in your district?

If elected Mayor I will move rapidly to merge the DCC and ORC to form a Unitary Council. As well as saving most of the ORC $30 million per year running costs, a Unitary Council will make business development and compliance much easier. As Mayor I will promote and facilitate new arts and culture industries. I will be welcoming of gas/oil exploration companies so we can have many development benefits like New Plymouth.

2. What are your goals and what should the priorities be for your council?

The priority for Council should be to stop adding to our crippling $650+ million debt. I would severely limit the planned $47 million spend on unnecessary cycle-ways, and instead pay off the stadium debt by selling harbourside leasehold land, which is a stranglehold on foreshore development. A streamlined Unitary Council is key to better finances, much lower interest payments, better buses, a Buy-Local campaign, and new arts and technology industries which will allow Dunedin to flourish.



Cars, trucks and bikes in Dunedin

Opinion – Wed, 18 Sep 2013

Draft strategies at the most relevant of times can be dull fare, and the Dunedin City Council draft transport strategy would not normally cause heightened debate.

The council’s hearings subcommittee reconvened on the matter last week, and Cr Lee Vandervis weighed in, pushing for changes.



Economy will rule council term

By Chris Morris on Wed, 18 Sep 2013

Those who claim the race for the Dunedin mayoralty lacks a big issue should look no further than the dole queue.



Mayoral Profile: Lee Vandervis

By Chris Morris on Fri, 20 Sep 2013

What do you know about the nine candidates who are contesting Dunedin’s mayoral campaign in 2013? Reporter Chris Morris puts the questions to Cr Lee Vandervis.

Outspoken city councillor Lee Vandervis is vowing to keep speaking his mind – while also pushing for an overhaul of Dunedin City Council finances – as he makes a fresh bid for Dunedin’s mayoralty.

In his second term, he has been a persistent and vocal thorn in the side of incumbent Mayor Dave Cull while lambasting the state of the council’s finances over the past three years.

And he is not letting up in this year’s election campaign, defending his outbursts at councillors and staff while describing the last term as a ”constant series of major disappointments”.

If elected, he has vowed to continue his push for a unitary council – merging the DCC and Otago Regional Council – to cut costs and use the savings to accelerate repayment of Forsyth Barr Stadium debt.

Why are you standing again?

I’m standing for the mayoralty because the current mayor, and the mayor before him, I believe had little business understanding and were quite happy to keep an unaffordable status quo going, fuelling it with debt. I’ve been in business and employing people for 30 years. I know that you simply can’t keep doing things on debt. I’m also very aware of the fact that we do not have a mechanism for paying for the stadium.

The supposed mechanism for paying for the stadium, and it’s been in place for five years now, was that DCHL was going to deliver a $23.5 million dividend every year, and that was going to do most of the paying for the stadium … they simply can’t deliver a $23.5 million dividend, so that was reduced to $15 million. It’s been shown they can’t deliver $15 million dividend, either. That’s now been reduced to something like $10 million. We’ve got no way of paying for the stadium. We’ve got a massive increase in debt while Mayor Cull’s been there.

Are you not satisfied by the efforts of Mr Cull and the council to accelerate debt repayments and cut costs in the last term?

Worse than not satisfied … Since stadium debt budgeting projections began, the payback period has always been 20 years, and has remained 20 years right up until this term. It’s only during Mayor Cull’s term as mayor that the payback period [for stadium debt] was mysteriously doubled, from 20 to 40 years, adding over $100 million in interest costs, and I led the charge to get it reduced.

What other major issues face the city and what would you do to address them?

The other major issues come back to Mayor Cull’s promises … that we wouldn’t get so much of the spending and pet projects and all the other stuff that I believed Mayor [Peter] Chin was guilty of. However, the last three years has been a constant series of major disappointments in Mayor Cull, where all the things he said he was going to do in terms of being transparent, in terms of being responsible about spending and debt, none of the things have actually happened.

The council has made some steps forward in both areas, hasn’t it?

If you describe a step forward as taking debt up … that’s a step forward in number terms, but a step backwards in terms of debt. In terms of transparency, one of the things Mayor Cull did fairly early on was set up a … completely non-transparent liaison committee, essentially with his hand-picked councillors … The transparency that he promised at the last election simply hasn’t happened.

What’s your vision for the city and how will you make it happen?

My vision for the city is to get the finances not just under control, but actually get the stadium paid off. Without paying down the stadium debt, it’s going to continue to be a thorn in our side. We’re looking at a generation of unaffordable interest payments … we should go for a unitary council, where we absorb the regional council.

We have one council, we vastly reduce the costs of running local government, and better than that, we get the profits of Port Otago and we get the leasehold land issue on the harbourside dealt with, essentially by selling off the leasehold land … We would be able to generate, I believe, pretty much enough money to pay off, at least, the stadium chunk of the debt. We could do that in two to three years.

You’ve stood unsuccessfully for mayor before – what makes this time different?

I have managed to increase my vote at every election, and if I increase my vote significantly enough in this election, I believe I’ve actually got a chance of making it, especially if Hilary Calvert takes a lot of the female vote off Mayor Cull, where he usually does very well. I think there is actually a chance that I could actually make the mayoralty on votes this time. Not a big chance, but I’m in there.

You’ve clashed with the mayor and some councillors, and you were even banned from talking to council staff for a while. What makes you leadership material?

I think exactly that – the fact that I’m prepared to speak up; the fact that I’m prepared to say the things that a lot of people are thinking, and just don’t ever have the courage to say it.

But how do you get anything done if you can’t work with people?

Who says I can’t work with people? I work with people exceedingly well . . . I believe I have a very good relationship with [chief executive] Paul Orders. There’s no doubt I have some frictional relationships at times, in terms of issues with other councillors. But I don’t believe any of them dislike me personally.

But can you win support for ideas around the council table?

Very obviously – just in [last week’s] meetings I’ve been winning support for a number of changes to what is really, to me, a quite abhorrent transportation strategy.

Is that winning support or is that other people relenting?

Whether it’s winning [support] or relenting, the fact is that they are actually having to come to see that everything that they’ve been doing so far is able to be improved. If I can, as a single councillor, produce enough relenting to actually change significant documents, then obviously I have quite a lot of sway with my fellows.

Have you learned any lessons in the last term?

There’s quite a bit I would do differently and one of the joys of growing old is that you realise that you’re lucky not to be as silly as you were last year. I genuinely believe that and that’s been the case every year for some number of years now … I don’t mean to upset people. But what I’ve learned is that unless I use colourful language, it doesn’t get reported. And if it doesn’t get reported, nothing changes.

You often seem quite angry in meetings. Are you an angry man?

I don’t think I’m an angry man. I certainly don’t think my family see me that way. But I do have to admit that a lot of what goes on in council does make me very angry.

What community involvement have you had?

Not a hell of a lot. In my job running the largest lighting hire business in Dunedin [Vandervision], I spent an awful lot of time in public meetings … so, in terms of what was happening in the community, I’ve been very much involved.

How are you funding your campaign?

I try not to overspend the $40-odd grand I get as a councillor, but I’m afraid I fail at that. I’m funding it by a bit of debt and by a bit of the good wishes of my dear wife.

Any donations?

Not at this stage … I’m not really keen on spending an awful lot of money on an election campaign, or anything else for that matter.

How much do you expect to spend?

A very modest spend, I would have thought – $4000 or $5000.

How do you describe your politics?

Neither left nor right. I’m perceived by some people as being very right wing, in that I think that people should actually pay for things themselves, where possible. But then I have some very left wing sides, as well … if you look at a colour picture it’s made up of red, blue and green, and I think I’m all of the above.

Who do you vote for nationally?

I’ve voted for most of the major parties in the past. I voted for the Greens in the last two elections.

Who are your supporters here?

I’m told by people who analyse these things that I have something of a Winston Peters demographic … older people respond to me very well. Males tend to respond to me fairly well. Middle-aged females tend not to respond to me so well.



Report card: Lee Vandervis

By Chris Morris on Sun, 22 Sep 2013

Otago Daily Times council reporter Chris Morris casts a critical eye over the work of Mayor Dave Cull and the 14 councillors over the last three years, offering his opinion on the council’s best and worst performers.

Love him or loathe him, he remains a key figure at the council table this term.



Mayoral war of words heats up

By Chris Morris on Mon, 23 Sep 2013

The temperature is rising in Dunedin’s mayoral race as incumbent Dave Cull and one of his fiercest rivals go head-to-head over credit for slashing the Forsyth Barr Stadium interest bills by $128 million.

The debate erupted as Mayor Dave Cull and Cr Lee Vandervis traded volleys yesterday over the decision to increase stadium loan terms from 20 years to 40 years, and then decrease them to 18.5 years.



Ball rolling slowly on Mosgiel pool

By Debbie Porteous on Tue, 24 Sep 2013

Dunedin city councillors will consider putting aside money in next year’s council budget to pursue further investigation of a new pool in Mosgiel.

But they have warned they cannot commit to a timeline, there is no actual money for it and the community will have to prove its commitment to the project.



Parking put aside for now as cycle lane idea proceeds

By Debbie Porteous on Tue, 24 Sep 2013

Concerns about the loss of parking from a separated cycle facility in central Dunedin are a ”red herring”, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.



Waterfront hotel biggest talking point

By Hamish McNeilly on Tue, 24 Sep 2013

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.



Councillor’s pleas heard

By Debbie Porteous on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

Two pleas on behalf of Dunedin’s southern communities saw retiring councillor Colin Weatherall make two wins for his area on Monday.

Councillors, except Cr Lee Vandervis, reversed their vote and agreed the community could have up to $10,000 for the project.



Fairfield gets slice of logging profit

By Debbie Porteous on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

A passionate plea from retiring Dunedin city councillor Colin Weatherall this week saw the council reverse a decision not to give the Fairfield community a share of the return from trees harvested in the area.

But Lee Vandervis was concerned it was unclear what the money would be used for, and said any money available should be going towards clearing debt.



No agreement yet on rural fire authority

By Chris Morris on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

Plans for a new rural fire authority spanning Otago have struck opposition from Dunedin city councillors, who have refused to sign up until concerns about the new structure were addressed.



DCC transport strategy accepted

By Chris Morris on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

The Dunedin City Council has signed off its new transport strategy, but not before a final round of impassioned support and last-minute criticism.

Councillors voted to accept the strategy. Cr Vandervis recorded his vote against it.



Varied stances on question of debt

By Chris Morris on Thu, 26 Sep 2013

Dunedin’s debt mountain is reaching new heights, but the Dunedin City Council says everything is under control. Reporter Chris Morris speaks to the city’s mayoral candidates about whether they would do anything differently.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the council’s repayment plan was ”just a fond hope”, as was the original plan for DCHL to pay for the stadium by providing $23.5 million a year in dividends to the council.

”The problem with this plan was that DCHL have never made clear profits of anything like $23.5 million and have had of a culture of borrowing which they misrepresented as dividends.”

Instead, Cr Vandervis wanted the DCC to merge with the Otago Regional Council to create a unitary council, before selling the ORC’s harbourside leasehold land.

The proceeds could be used to pay back most of the stadium debt quickly, ”to prevent Dunedin succumbing to impossible interest costs, especially with likely interest increases within a year”, he said.

Candidates’ views

Lee Vandervis: ”The current repayment plan is not a plan but is just a fond hope.”

– Not happy with DCC debt plan.
– Unitary council needed to sell leasehold land and pay back stadium debt.



To drill or not to drill, that is the question

By Chris Morris on Wed, 2 Oct 2013

A key to Dunedin’s future prosperity could lie buried beneath the seabed just 60km off the coast. But so, too, could the seeds of an environmental catastrophe. Reporter Chris Morris talks to Dunedin’s mayoral candidates about oil and gas.



City’s economy the overriding concern

By Chris Morris on Sun, 6 Oct 2013

Is Dunedin’s economy circling the drain? Or is it poised at the dawn of a new era, tapping into the riches of China, tourism and investment in renewable energy technology? Reporter Chris Morris asks Dunedin’s mayoral candidates.



2013-10- 08 ODT Letter