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Live blog _ Mayoral Debate

Top candidates for the Christchurch mayoralty, Lianne Dalziel and Paul Lonsdale, lined up last night for a mayoral debate hosted by The Press. Sarah-Jane O’Connor followed the debate as it unfolded.

The candidates are each given a final three minutes to wrap up.
Lonsdale says he “will lead, but I will be transparent” and take the community forward. “The time for talking is over”.
Dalziel talks of the thousands of residents who “put their hopes and dreams on sticky notes” as part of the Share an Idea campaign and says she wants to “recapture that sense of excitement”.

For the final question of the night, Norris asks who the candidates would like to see as their deputy.
Lonsdale says he would “have to see who’s around the table”. Dalziel says she would like to “do something different” by asking councillors to “write the job description” for the deputy. She says she does not want a deputy who is just sent to cut ribbons. “I want to have a hard-working leader standing next to me.”

Dalziel says it is “completely unfair” to ask her who she thinks should be the Earthquake Recovery Minister post 2014 since she helped write the policy. Though she supports Ruth Dyson for the role, Dalziel says “if it’s Gerry Brownlee, I will work with him”.
Lonsdale says the role is not up to council to decide, “it’s our job to work with whoever’s there”.

As both candidates have discussed the need to revitalise the council’s senior management team, Norris asks what salary level they think is appropriate for a CEO.
Lonsdale says the salary should be based on what other CEOs are paid at other councils. “I believe we need to find someone who is actually capable of doing the job.”
Dalziel says she does not know what the market rate is, but suspects “anyone seriously considering coming to Christchurch … would be thinking very carefully about the level of public scrutiny they will be under”.
“It’s actually worth it to pay the money up front and get it right, than to spend the money fixing up the problems afterwards.”

The candidates are asked if we need a covered stadium.
Lonsdale says “if you’re going to do one, you cover it”. Rather, he says the question is whether you “have a 35,000 seat or less”.
Dalziel says following the Share an Idea campaign, the blueprint never “came back to the people for consultation”. She says “we can talk to the government about scale” but people are “pretty convinced it needs to be covered”.

The debate now moves into quick fire questions about the anchor projects. Norris questions Dalziel on her stance that the decision around the Anglican Cathedral should have been “parked”.
“If it were the council’s property, I think we would have looked at it from the perspective that it’s a Category 1 Heritage building,” Dalziel says. “It’s a shame that the heart of Cathedral Square belongs to a body that isn’t the people of Christchurch.”
Lonsdale says the reality of the situation is that it is largely out of council’s hands. “But at the end of the day, what is heritage in 100 years time? It’s what we build today”.

The candidates were allowed to prepare one question for each other, which they now asked.
Lonsdale asked Dalziel what she would do as a job if she is not elected as mayor, since she has given up her Christchurch East electorate seat. “I haven’t considered it,” Dalziel answers. “Not because I think it’s a foregone conclusion”. But she says her “role is here in Christchurch” and she will find a role. “I’m going to have plenty on my plate, regardless, if I’m mayor or not”.
Dalziel’s question for Lonsdale is how he will seek to address repairing properties in the flood management areas.
Lonsdale replies that he would like to “strengthen our pathways” to the natural assets of the Avon River, Sumner and Lyttelton Port. In doing so, he says “we can remediate the land and some of the flood risk”.

The third reader question comes from Marty Evans, who asks how the candidates will motivate councillors to work together.
Lonsdale says “leadership comes from bringing people together”. He cites the ethos he brought into the Re:Start mall.
Dalziel says “you can’t have an A team and a B team” and questions whether councillors should be allowed to take directorships beyond their council roles.

Another reader Judy Tardy asks on behalf of “those who lost their home in the ‘quake” whether residents should be the priority “when it comes to issuing building consents”.
Dalziel says this is “one of the reasons I’m standing for mayor”. “I don’t want to go to any more meetings and have people standing up saying ‘am I still going to be alive when my house is rebuilt’”.
She says leadership is required to get the issues resolved. “Why are we leaving the people of Christchurch to take the government and council to court?”
Lonsdale says the “consenting debacle is unacceptable”. He suggests pressure can be placed on the insurers and EQC to resolve issues, “because someone needs to do it”.

Following a short break, Norris turns to reader questions. Michael Hughes asks whether the candidates would consider reducing rates for earthquake-damaged homes.
Lonsdale discusses rates for unoccupied business land in the city and concerns that taking away the rating on the land “will have an impact on the debt going forward”.
Dalziel says “it’s totally unfair” to be charging rates if residents are out of their homes as “you’re not using any of the facilities the council provides”

The candidates are asked how they would deal with the under-insured community facilities.
Dalziel says she wants to “bring in an external company, to evaluate the situation we’re in”. She says she would be prepared for the council to take on further debt to fund community assets. “These are assets that will carry on into future generations … paid for back out of the rates received in time to come.”
Lonsdale says money has been set aside for community facilities under the Three Year Plan though “we’ve got to understand the books first”.

Norris questions the candidates on their knowledge of the projected debt to revenue ratio, and asks whether this is an acceptable burden for rate-payers.
Lonsdale says “I don’t believe we can afford not to rebuild our city”. When pressed on whether he would sell assets, he says he “would want to look at the books” and identify which assets are doing a good job for the city.
Dalziel says assets cannot be sold unless the community it consulted, and cannot get to that stage without support from the majority of council. She agrees assets need to be “high-performing” and cites several core assets like the airport and port.

Norris asks the candidates who will best service the needs of businesses.
Dalziel says she comes with experience from her time as Minister for Commerce and Minister for Small Business.
Lonsdale says “you’ve got to work inside business to understand business” and with his business experience he is “well above Lianne in that area”.

Both candidates are asked who their top three funders are, besides themselves and their family. Dalziel says she does not know, because all her donations are currently anonymous, “but we will be disclosing that information as required by the law”.
Lonsdale says one of his key backers is acting chairman for Re:Start Trust, Roger Bridge, who has ties to the National Party.

Considering Lonsdale’s non-political background, Norris asks how he thinks he will cope with the “deeply political role” of mayor. Lonsdale replies that “not being a politician brings a strength you won’t get otherwise”.
To Dalziel, Norris says that her political experience is seen by some as a negative, and asks what role the Labour Party has in her campaign.
Dalziel replies that the party isn’t playing “any role in my campaign”. “They’re focused on their own council candidates … and also they’re going to be focusing in my old electorate”. She says we need someone “who knows how to work with government” and in that case she “brings skills because of my background, not the other way round”.

Norris cites a recent poll that put Dalziel in the lead, and asked Lonsdale whether he can “realistically turn this around”. Lonsdale questions the poll and says “it may be closer than you think, you won’t know until the day”.
Dalziel says she worries about such polls in case people think “oh, I don’t have to bother now”. Lonsdale agrees, saying “none of us want to get voted on a 20 per cent turnout”.

The candidates are asked what is the first issue they would bring up with Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee. Dalziel says she would address red zone issues for the “people whose lives are on hold again”.
Lonsdale says transportation is going to be a top priority going forward with the city spreading out geographically.

Norris asks what Lonsdale and Dalziel would hope to achieve in their first 90 days as mayor.
Dalziel says she would aim to have a factual document out to residents by Christmas covering the council’s agreements with the government and “what are we allowed to prioritise, can we engage with government on that?”
Lonsdale says he would send the councillors out to their wards and “ask them to come back with three ideas … quick wins that don’t cost a lot of money”.

Norris asks the candidates which council policy they would address first upon becoming mayor.
Lonsdale says he would appoint a new chief exec, open the books and “see where we are”. He says stream-lining processes would avoid “another debacle” like the issues over building consents.
Dalziel questions the council’s decision to restore the Christchurch Town Hall. “That seems to have a flow-on effect into the performing arts precinct. But before I have a position … I want to understand what all the implications are”.

Lonsdale begins his address with the statement, “I’m not a politician, I am a Cantabrian”. He says after the earthquakes “many people did a lot of talking”. “I led my community back into business, not once, not twice but three times.”
He says the Re:Start mall brought life and vitality back to the city, “and if elected as mayor, this is exactly what I would do to the city of Christchurch”.
His aims, if elected, include transforming the city council’s operating structure, ensuring the council is empowered, and strengthening community boards to tackle feelings of disengagement.

The candidates begin with five-minute opening addresses.
Dalziel says she has “always been proud to call Christchurch my home” but when the city was facing a “crisis of confidence” in 2010, she was not ready to run for the mayoralty. “Nothing could have been further from my mind”.
Now, she says she is not the same person she was three years ago. “I now understand that everything that truly matters in a post-disaster recovery environment is local. Everything is local.”
Christchurch, she says, “is crying out for the type of leadership that I can offer”.
Dalziel says the next three years are critical for Christchurch. “Cera disappears in two and a half years time. We know we have a government which will extend the life of Cera if the council isn’t up to it”.

The Press editor and moderator of tonight’s debate Joanna Norris takes to the stage to introduce the two leading candidates.
Norris reminds the audience that just over three years ago, The Press was preparing to host the 2010 mayoral debate. The last three years, Norris says, have “tested the council’s capacity, its organisation and its leadership”.
“It’s a tough job, who would want to be mayor?” Norris asks, before introducing Paul Lonsdale and Lianne Dalziel.
Lonsdale, who has been manager of the central city business association since 2007, spear-headed and managed the Re:Start Mall. Where he has no political background, Dalziel has been in parliament for the past 23 years and has just resigned as MP for Christchurch East.

Mike Yardley kicks off the evening by welcoming the audience to tonight’s debate, featuring “the political amazon of the east, versus the political virgin of the central city”. Yardley warns the audience of judging who will win the mayoral race, citing the American’s Cup, “it ain’t over ’till it’s over”.