Christchurch mayoralty race heats up

Last updated 15:10 19/06/2013
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Dalziel on the mayoralty race

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Prime Minister John Key says National will likely stand a candidate in a Christchurch East by-election, but with low expectations of winning.

Labour MP Lianne Dalziel has announced she will quit Parliament to contest the Christchurch mayoralty, meaning there will be a by-election before the end of the year.

Key said National was yet to discuss whether it would stand a candidate and who that might be, but "in all probability" it would put someone up.

"I think we would run into that campaign with our eyes open and our expectations very low."

There had never been a by-election where the incumbent Government had won a seat they didn't already hold.

Dalziel has been a trenchant critic of the government's rebuild programme. She is up against sitting mayor Bob Parker, who has also been off-side with the National Government on a number of issues. But Key said the National government could happily work with Dalziel.

"If she was to win the mayoralty yes, no question. We as the Government will work with whoever is democratically elected to council... and we've proven that in the past."

An example was New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven, a long-time Labour MP, who the Government had worked with "very successfully".

Labour leader David Shearer said Dalziel was an outstanding candidate for the Christchurch mayoralty, and Labour’s loss was the city’s gain.

“Lianne Dalziel is passionate, hard-working and absolutely committed to Christchurch. As an electorate MP and Labour’s spokesperson on Earthquake Recovery she knows full well the challenges and opportunities facing Christchurch.

“Christchurch needs strong leadership. Lianne’s experience and understanding of both the local issues and of central government make her an ideal candidate for mayor."

SPECULATION ENDS

Labour MP Lianne Dalziel has ended months of speculation by officially declaring her candidacy for the mayoralty against incumbent Bob Parker.

The experienced pair were the only two candidates publicly in the race, and while they will loom large over the local political scene until the October election, both will do it by themselves.

Neither has a running mate, and Parker has admitted he has only a shoe-string budget for the campaign.

Dalziel, who will stand as an independent, is saying little about her platform or her policies, but confirmed she will resign as Christchurch East MP.

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‘‘People have been telling me they want me to run for the mayoralty and I’ve decided to do that. It was a big decision to make but I’m really quite relieved now that it is made.’’

Despite having had discussions with several people, including Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, about standing together, Dalziel will not be running with a ticket or a team.

‘‘The first thing I want to do is unite the council. 

‘‘At the moment you hear councillors talking about an A team and a B team and I don’t think there is any room for more than one team around the table.’’

Parker said he had been assuming for months that Dalziel would be his main rival but it was hard to gauge what kind of campaign she would run or how she would be perceived by voters as she had yet to put forward any policies or ideas.

He suggested she would have considerably more resources to throw at the campaign because of her Labour Party connections, while he was reluctant to ask people for financial backing.

‘‘I don’t like that side of the game. I don’t like asking people for things and I certainly don’t like asking them for money,’’ said Parker, who paid for most of the $60,000 he spent on his last campaign.

He said that despite the stress and the strain of the past three years, he was going into this election with more enthusiasm and energy than in 2010. 

He loved his job and wanted to help steer Christchurch through the rebuild.

Asked what he thought his chances of winning another term were, Parker said he felt he had solid support across the city.

‘‘I’ve got a reasonable expectation of winning but you don’t count on it.’’

Dalziel would not divulge any details about her platform or policies yet because she wanted time to talk to people and gather information on key issues.

"I want to set up a very broad-based sounding board that actually engages a number of people from all walks to life and across the political spectrum and build that into the kind of sounding board that won’t just be available to me before the election but will be available to the whole council after the election.’’

She dismissed any suggestion that if elected she would have trouble working with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, her current political opponent as Labour’s earthquake recovery spokeswoman, saying she had a proven track record of working across political lines.

But Parker is not convinced the partnership would work.

She's called for him to resign and clearly there has been a lot of personal angst between them in the past.

"Gerry and I occasionally bang heads but we get on really well and have a good relationship."

- The Press

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