Councillor Brian Dawson launches bid for Marlborough mayoralty
Local government needs to cut its cloth to prevent the further creep of rates increases, mayoral candidate Brian Dawson says.
It was "not fair" the Marlborough District Council was reaching further into the pockets of ratepayers over and above the increases in their incomes, Dawson said.
The private sector had made changes since the global financial crisis and councils needed to do the same, he said.
The businessman is making his second bid in six years for the mayoralty.
For the first time in 12 years Marlborough is guaranteed a new mayor after the incumbent Alistair Sowman said he would not seek re-election.
"While I don't agree with Alistair Sowman in many respects you can't help but admire the effort he has put in to leading the community for the last 12 years," Dawson said.
"As a politician the first thing you want to say is how terrible everything is and how I am here to fix it up. I can't say that about Marlborough."
In the short term, Marlborough was on the up, Dawson said.
Proposed vineyard plantings in Marlborough over the next five years was the equivalent of all the plantings in Hawke's Bay and Otago put together, Dawson said.
The housing market was booming and the council was about to sell 40 sections under the hammer in the next few weeks.
But Marlborough faced an ageing and eventually declining population.
"We don't have the workforce that we need or the quality of jobs we need," Dawson said.
The council had to balance competing needs.
The ageing population wanted the council to stick to its core service and to keep rates down. But fast-paced business needed infrastructure.
"We have to keep rates sustainable in the long term. I don't see that being done."
To offset rates increases the council had to boost its ratepayer base and leverage the "Marlborough lifestyle" and pull in more people to work, live, study and do business, Dawson said.
"We need structures to deliver that without taking more money from ratepayers' pockets. It can't sit within council. There needs to be private sector governance."
The council needed to be lean and enabling. That meant exiting from property development in the town centre.
At Taylor Pass, the council was appropriately subdividing and selling off its land to section buyers.
"I don't want to hear people in the future say that council has been influencing the market by drip-feeding sections onto the property market.
"Whether that barrier is perceived or real needs to be addressed.
"Council should be the regulator and enabler of the property market not the regulator, enabler and market participant."
The ASB Theatre would be at the forefront of election questions, he said.
"We must all take responsibility over the theatre. If we had of known at the beginning, and we should have had, that ratepayers were going to make a capital contribution of $10 million and a weekly operational grant of $7500, we might have made a different decision.
"It's there now and we have to make the most of it."
Dawson said he did not anticipate a dirty election campaign but he was mindful of commentary on social media, text talk and letters to the editor.
"A lot is well written. Equally there are keyboard warriors that put the boot in at every opportunity. These people need to get from behind their keyboards and be constructive. As a politician you are always going to get a hard time, that comes with the job.
"I am more than happy to be questioned and challenged. There is a fine line between abuse, bullying and robust debate."
Dawson worked in banking for 22 years.
In 2010, Dawson left the SBS Bank and took up the role of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce general manager.
He left the chamber in 2013 and was elected to the council.
Dawson and his wife Tricia own and operate a training company called Gist Communication Services Ltd in Blenheim and Nelson.
- The Marlborough Express