I’ve been a supporter of the Greens since 1999, a voter since 2002, a campaign volunteer since 2008 and a member since 2010. It’s an honour to be able to publicly announce my Green Party candidacy for the Dunedin Mayoralty (and City Council) in 2013 because I believe the challenges our world, our cities and our communities are facing are best solved with sustainable Green solutions. I am excited to be part of a passionate and dedicated Green Dunedin team on the vanguard of positive Green change in our community.
I want to lead a Council that is led by its community. A council that will go into bat for you when you’re under attack. I’ve spent my whole life kicking up a fuss, and now I want to dedicate my life to doing that for you. If your workshop is under attack from central government, your school facing closure, or your community radio station on the chopping block, I will personally do what I can to help. Dunedin voters deserve a Mayor who will fight for them when the chips are down, and who will champion them when you’re doing well. A placard in one hand and a flag in the other.
A council that is led by its community is one that believes that democracy isn’t something that happens every three years, or even annually. Democracy is an every day activity, and the Dunedin City Council don’t seem to realise that. They don’t make much of an effort to ask us what we want to spend our rates bill on, because they’re scared of that we might not agree with them. Democracy is funny like that. We need to have more of a say, more often, on how the Council spends its money.
Around the country this October, the Greens are supporting candidates running for local government positions, and I believe Dunedin will be the first city in New Zealand to have an openly Green mayor. The Dunedin North electorate is one of the strongest for the party, taking 24% in the 2011 General Election, and support in Dunedin South has increased by ~50% in each of the last two general elections. It is worth noting that general elections take place in the tertiary holidays, taking ~10% of the population, all young voters, out of the equation. Yes, voter turnout in this demographic is low – turnout overall was a disappointing 47% in 2010 – but the Dunedin City Council & the Otago University Students Association have made a commitment to mobilising the student vote for the local elections this year. This has the potential to impact this year’s results dramatically.
You’re going to hear a lot about how wrong it is for the Green Party to be involving ourselves so openly in local body elections. Incumbent Mayor Dave Cull has said that councillor’s loyalty should be to the community and not to a party, this coming from a man who doesn’t publicly do either. The truth is that policies will be made locally, in response to local issues. There is no handing down of policy from caucus. There is no whipping in local councils. There is no way the party can control how an elected representative can vote.
As Clare Curran pointed out this week – political parties can be very loyal to their communities if the values of their party are about community. As my Dad was so fond of repeating – if you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything. Many of our Mayors and Councillors, around the country, past and present, have had strong party political affiliations. Many have even banded together on tickets billed as variations on the Citizens And/Or Ratepayers theme. Queenstown-based millionaire Sir Eion Edgar has announced plans to parachute in some cash to bankroll a resurrection of it in Dunedin. I think it is more honest to declare them from the outset, to lay out my values and principles at the very beginning of the campaign in order for the electorate to make an informed choice. At the Town Hall, every little bit of transparency helps – who knows, it might even prove contagious!
Important environmental and social decisions are made a local government level, and for the sake of our mokopuna, it is important to have a Green voice around the table when they’re being made. When the Greens finally get to Cabinet after the 2014 election, our policies around better public transport infrastructure need support at a local body level to be maximise their potential. If there’s still an RMA left by the end of the Key Regime, it is local authorities who are there to protect our environment from dodgy development. These are but two examples of why Green values and principles as critical locally as they are nationally.
What will a Green Dunedin look like? We are all acutely aware that our city isn’t in the best financial shape. Decisions made by previous Councils – some against the express demands of thousands of us – make it difficult to fund big projects. Green Dunedin is about doing what we can do together to make all of our lives better, safer and more sustainable. Our three priorities for this are:
Green Jobs: encouraging sustainable jobs in sustainable industries for a sustainable Dunedin.
Green Homes: warm and healthy homes for everyone, and I mean everyone. If you pay rent, you pay rates, and you deserve the same support and respect from your local Council as homeowners do. There are no second class citizens in a Green Dunedin.
Green Transport: safer, affordable and efficient transport options for getting around our City. Whether you chose travel by bus, by bike or by your own two boots, there is a lot that can be done to make those more attractive options. Long term, we have no choice.
A Green Dunedin will be focused on Green Jobs, Green Homes and Green Transport to get people between the two. We have a city that is world renowned for its creativity, for its environment and heritage. Let’s preserve what we have and build on it for Dunedin’s future.