Lies and the Dunedin mayoralty

In a televised mayoral forum current mayor Dave Cull accused me or councillors of lying about claims of Greater Dunedin councillors working together.

I believe the evidence shows that Cull is trying to blatantly mislead the public about his Greater Dunedin ‘group’, about their motives and what they have done during the current term – in other words, he appears to be the one who is lying.

Dave Gooselink asked the forum:

To Dave Cull firstly, you’re leading the Greater Dunedin team in council and also standing in this election, do you think it would be good for council to be under the majority control of one political grouping?

Dave Cull:

I need to make it clear that Greater Dunedin’s only purpose is to get good people on to council, we don’t have a role the rest of the time, we don’t exercise a role the rest of the time, this term I’ve run a united collegial council inclusive of everyone, and the ticket we run on is for the election and not for the term.

This term, after one term as councillor, Cull was elected mayor standing for Greater Dunedin. That’s democracy. But it’s worth noting that his Greater Dunedin colleague Chris Staynes was appointed deputy mayor after one term as councillor, ahead of councillors with far more experience.

The Greater Dunedin website home page contradicts itself and Cull.

Greater Dunedin is not a political party and our elected councillors are not bound to vote together.  They are free to vote according to their own best judgement on each Council issue.  They do, however, work cooperatively to make the best decisions for the future of the city.

That clearly states they work cooperatively.

Our candidates see six key priorities for the city as we head into the next trienniun.

And that spells out common policies. Ironically their first priority is contradicted by their

We’re focused on engaging with residents proactively, openly and transparent.

Dave Cull has blogged on the ODT election page: Dave Cull: Only the best is good enough

In the 2007 elections I came onto Council with fellow Greater Dunedin candidates Kate Wilson and Chris Staynes.

We three were the only new Councillors elected. In the 2010 elections, when I became Mayor, Jinty MacTavish and Richard Thomson, again Greater Dunedin candidates, were the only new faces.

During this term, all five of us have delivered on the promises we made in 2010: financial prudence, more transparency, constrained rate rises, controlled debt, accountability, a vision of a sustainable city: the list goes on.

We have led the Council in turning around the way it operates.

The collective ‘we’ being prominent. ‘If it quacks like a party it’s a party.’

Back to the Dunedin Television forum. Hilary Calvert said:

I think it’s sort of an oxymoron to say that we’re standing on a ticket but once we get we will no longer have a ticket connecting is.

Either you’re a group, or you’re not a group, and if you support independent good people, who ever’s standing you want good people, they don’t support any of the rest of the people that are standing, they only support their ticket.


They weren’t good enough.

Cull doesn’t think the rest of the candidates were good enough to be considered for his group. His blog post again:

It’s imperative that the current Greater Dunedin Councillors are all re-elected to maintain continuity of positive effort.

It is also critically important for the city, that the new faces around the table are the very best quality candidates available.

For the sake of Dunedin, please support Greater Dunedin candidates and our belief that only the best Councillors and candidates are good enough to guide our city forward.

If he is returned as mayor does that mean he will think no other councillors but his Greater Dunedin Councillors are good enough to be considered for the top jobs and most important committees?

Greater Dunedin’s sole purpose is to identify, promote and support good candidates onto Council.Greater Dunedin is promoting four new candidates for Council at this election: Mike Lord in the Mosgiel-Taieri Ward, and Irene Mosley, Letisha Nicholas and Ali Copeman in the Central Ward.

Each of them has carefully and thoughtfully signed up to Greater Dunedin’s principles of transparency, respect and a future-focused vision.

Each of them supports the progress made in this past term and the need to maintain the positive momentum.

Signed up to Greater Dunedin’s principles. Cull’s claim that ‘They are free to vote according to their own best judgement on each Council issue’ is totally at odds with published joint principles.

More from Cull at the forum:

I endorse these people because they’re good, it’s very difficult , It’s Greater Dunedin’s ambition to promote good people. It’s very difficult for people to get onto council. It is Greater Dunedin’s ambition to promote good people, to give them some profile, to give them a leg up into council.

After that, they’re independent.

Of course we consult with each other around the council table, decisions have to be made by a majority and you want to do it on the right grounds…

According to Greater Dunedin principles and policies?

…but that’s the end of it.

This all sounds duplicitous to me. They’re supposedly independent but they have common principles and they work together, and they owe their place in council to the ‘group’ that selected them and promoted them.

Why can’t they just be honest about what looks obvious? Why do they try claim something in one breath and deny it in the next?

I said next:

An outgoing councillor told me he’d seen Greater Dunedin caucusing in the current council..

Cull interjected:

That’s a lie in that case, because we don’t and never have.

Someone else closely involved with council confirmed with me that “confirm on number cases GD members  appear to frequent locations together that look like caucusing/meeting”. And yesterday yet another person said the same thing.

At the second of the televised forums candidate Andrew Whiley:

It was interesting at Opoho Church the other night [a council candidate forum] where one of the Greater Dunedin councillors turned around and said he looks forward to working with like minded people.

Cr Lee Vandervis:

They claim independence. They operate basically how the mayor wants them to, mostly in terms of voting.

They do vote individually on some items, especially some of them. There are several councillors, the deputy mayor would be a classic example, who I can’t ever remember voting against whatever the mayor said even if he was arguing the opposite the minute before.

Who is lying?

Should Dunedin have a mayor that accuses councillors of lying but is the one who seems to be deliberately misleading the public?

It’s worth repeating…

In the 2007 elections I came onto Council with fellow Greater Dunedin candidates Kate Wilson and Chris Staynes.

We three were the only new Councillors elected. In the 2010 elections, when I became Mayor, Jinty MacTavish and Richard Thomson, again Greater Dunedin candidates, were the only new faces.

This election Greater Dunedin is standing nine candidates. A majority in council is eight, with the mayor having the casting vote.

It should be noted that next term new rules take effect that give the mayor greater power:

(APNZ) Mayors throughout the country will become more powerful under new law changes set to come into action after October’s local elections. The changes will allow mayors to appoint their own deputies, set the structure of committees and appoint committee chairpeople.

I have asked on Dave Cull’s Facebook page:

Dave, can you pledge that if re-elected mayor that you will select a deputy mayor and committee chairs purely on merit without favour for your own group of councillors?

And please explain how this would work considering you have said:
“For the sake of Dunedin, please support Greater Dunedin candidates and our belief that only the best Councillors and candidates are good enough to guide our city forward.”

I await his openness and transparency.

Leave a comment


  1. It’s always easy to tell when it’s election year; the grandstanding and posturing wind up.
    What is actually wrong with caucusing, tickets, or political party involvement? It’s been painted by the ODT and conservatives/independants as some sort of crime against humanity in local government. Interestingly the same fears don’t seem to exist with central government. What is the difference?
    Imagine a Parliament of 120 independents. What fun that would be. 120 free spirits elected on 120 different lots of promises that are just blather anyway.
    I’ve written a few thoughts on the subject at and I’d welcome feedback.
    I’d also welcome candidates giving a clear idea on their stand of the major issues likely to arise. Like selling Council assets, progressive rating systems, public transport, Council provision of social services etc.i.e. declaring their true colours and allowing informed choice.

    • I’ve consistently said there’s nothing wrong with caucusing, it’s natural to do it. What I have drawn attention to is claims by Greater Dunedin that they never caucus and that they never work together or meet together, which is a nonsensical claim. And I have taken issue with it being implied I lied for saying what I’d been told – same as Rodney Bryant objected to being accused of telling untruths about what he’d observed.

      I believe I have given a clear idea of where I stand on a number of things, in election forums, in the Star and ODT, and extensively online. See

      I’d be happy to answer any specific queries.

      • I took from your language that you considered caucusing to be bad. And your tone with regard to the Green Party candidate still suggests disapproval.Caucusing is natural, but more to the point, it is vital if minorities are to have any effect at all.Two people who co-ordinate their approach are far more likely to achieve things than either alone. I’m talking orders of magnitude difference.It’s all very well being a lone-wolf and wailing. There’s lots of headlines to be made, and remarkably little progress.I’ve been-there-done-that.
        Because of all the propaganda about caucusing over many years, it’s no wonder Greater Dunedin try to downplay their collectiveness. Why wouldn’t they? Any sort of collective approach to local government is painted as evil. And then witch-hunts are launched to single out the collectives. From what you suggest, a candidate “looking forward to working with like-minded people” is proof that they are on the dark side and about to descend into (gulp) caucusing.
        Your witch-hunting is a funny way of showing your approval of caucusing.

        • I was accused of lying, Rodney Bryant was accused of saying “untruths”, it’s nonsense to call raising that witchhunting. Dave Cull and you protest too much.

          It’s not witchhunting to point out the hypocrisy of campaigning on being open and transparent while trying to disguise what everyone expects would be normal and some people say they have observed.

          Are you implying that the mayor should not be exempt from criticism? I’d have thought it reasonable to examine his honesty and openness.examined.

    • I’ve also posted the following on your blog:

      I agree on some things. Certainly people have a responsibility to acquaint themselves with candidates. You only get a carefully written view in most print. Seeing them speak at a forum is one of the best ways to evaluate personalities, and speaking to candidates is better. Most are available to speak in person after forums and at other times.

      Some (not many) are readily available on social media, asking questions there is a good way to get to know a bit about them outside the advertising.

      I’ve attended about eighteen election events, I’ve been interviewed on two radio stations (Radio One and Radion Dunedin), I’ve submitted written material to a number of local publications, I’ve been in the ODT a number of times ranging from brief comments to detailed interviews. And I’ve been on the Dunedin television election special (three quarters of an hour broadcast three times and available on demand online). I attended two events today connecting with people involved in community initiatives. And still many people say they haven’t heard of me.

      I disagree with some of what you say about party openness.

      As far as I’ve seen most Independent and non-affiliated candidates are in fact standing independent of any political party.

      The Green Dunedin mayoral candidate (Aaron Hawkins) was obviously open about his affiliation and dutifully recited party policy but I didn’t learn much about what he would be like as a mayor or councillor, he didn’t reveal much about himself as a person (to me).

      The Greater Dunedin candidates are open about their group but aren’t open about their in-term activities and aren’t open about the obvious political leaning of the group. I don’t know whether they are deliberately misleading as part of their marketing or unaware of how they are seen politically. I know some of the GD candidates have misgivings about some aspects of how the group presents to the public and how it operates.

      Hilary Calvert has a known past with Act but I never saw any reason to think she Act had any connection with her candidacy.

      I was open about my political connections. I stood for United Future last general election and have had some involvement since, but the party had no involvement in my candidacy or campaign, I have done it entirely on my own. The only party link there is it gives indication of a similar sensible centrist tendency, but I have worked with other parties as well.

      I stood under Your Dunedin because I have operated under that name for over two years, since before I had anything to do with United Future – in fact it was because of what I was doing under Your Dunedin that prompted the party to stand for them.

      Your Dunedin is in effect a totally independent entity with a primary focus on doing democracy better in Dunedin and providing better representation for Dunedin people in council and in Parliament. There is a history of this on, the very first post there is consistent with what I have been campaigning on.

      If I am voted mayor or councillor I will work with others across the political spectrum, this is what I have done in national politics as well. One key aim is to work with all five MPs with Dunedin connections (across three parties) to better promote Dunedin’s interests in Wellington.

      So don’t knock ‘independent’, especially at a local political level it’s the norm rather than an exception.

  2. graham

     /  8th October 2013

    Pete, you say “If I am voted mayor or councillor I will work with others across the political spectrum”. It is obvious that you do not have a great deal of respect for Dave Cull, how would you cope if he was returned as mayor and you were elected as a councillor?

    • I’ve had discussions with Dave Cull during the campaign and I’m sure I could work with him successfully if he’s willing.

      • graham

         /  9th October 2013

        Hmm. You’ve previously talked about Dave Cull’s vague and lukewarm waffle, the mediocre performance of Dunedin under his mayoralty, accused him of hidden agendas and lack of consultation and duplicity, claimed that he’s accused you of lying, claimed that he’s asleep at the wheel, said it’s hard to know what he stands for, and lambasted Greater Dunedin.

        Doesn’t sound like a great start to a successful working relationship, if I’m honest!

        I suspect that any council meetings with both you and Dave Cull present would quickly degenerate … but I guess we shall see what the voters think in a few days. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope for Dunedin’s sake I am.


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