The National Business
June 4, 2004
The city of Dunedin for the first time will use PR-STV or choice voting to elect
their mayor from a a field of five candidates in the upcoming elections.
The National Business Review
Pro-Business Farry to Slash Dunedin Red Tape
By Mark Peart
June 4, 2004
Dunedin's council bureaucracy can expect a shake-up if city
businessman Malcolm Farry becomes mayor in October.
The strongly pro-business Mr Farry is one of four candidates to have so far
declared their desire to replace left-wing incumbent mayor Sukhi Turner, who is
retiring after three terms in office.
Mrs Turner's decision has coincided with the council's decision to extend chief
executive Jim Harland's employment contract for a further two years until March
A dentist by training, father-of-eight Mr Farry, 63, is executive director of
the Farry Group of Companies, a diverse holding company of property, tourism,
retailing and accommodation businesses.
"I'm totally frustrated by the bureaucracy I belong to," Mr Farry
said. "A change in the organisation in terms of reducing the bureaucracy
would not be that difficult. Virtually everyone involved in the bureaucracy
would like to see some changes. It really just takes the next move to do
Mr Farry, who is in the closing stages of his second term on the council, has
served as chairman of the pivotal council economic development committee since
being elected in 1998.
He made no bones then about standing on an economic development ticket in part
to counter perceptions that the council was anti-business.
He said things had changed since then and there would be no point standing on
the same ticket now.
"The city is strong, it's vibrant, it's confident. If we're clever, and we
won't have to be too clever, we can keep this [economic development] platform
and move on from that, and get even greater advantages and even greater
opportunities. The issues are wider now.
"When you get your economic development platform in place, you need to
continue with that, because there is nothing you can get delivered unless you've
got the foundations in place, which are good management, good systems and good
The council has been dogged in recent months by controversy surrounding the
prescriptive nature of its district plan.
It is about to defend an appeal in the Environment Court brought by two pressure
groups which object to the council's intention to vary the plan so rural land
can be rezoned industrial to allow more development within the city.
The anomalies in the plan have been brought home to the council by the inability
of its own forestry company, City Forests Ltd, to locate a $7 million sawmill
development on the Taieri Plain because of zoning issues.
Mr Farry is confident the appeal will not be upheld.
"It just doesn't make any sense for anybody in the city to be able to put
us in a stranglehold, to prevent us from continuing along the pathway of success
that we're already on.
"Nobody wants growth and development at any cost.
"The charm and lifestyle of Dunedin is basically why we are here but we
have to have the appropriate kind of balance in sustainable growth, otherwise we
don't go forward, we go backwards."
Mr Farry said the district plan was created in an era when "we were not as
forward-thinking as we are now."
It had some "basic flaws" which made it difficult for progress in some
Although he has historically been a staunch advocate for business around the
council table, this time around Mr Farry is careful not to pigeon-hole himself
as solely a standard-bearer for business.
"The city council is seen as much more enabling to business than it was
prior to 1998. While I'm sure it wasn't intentionally business unfriendly, it
was perceived from time to time as being business-unfriendly, and I guess
perception is reality. There will still be people who perceive the council as
business unfriendly ... but I think the perception of being business unfriendly
has diminished quite dramatically."
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the council had
come a long way in its support for the business community, which enjoyed a
rapport with the economic development unit.
"But there are other departments which do need to be worked on from the
perspective of making them aware the decisions they make have a huge impact on
our city's ability to do business."
They included the planning and consents departments.
"We've seen at times perhaps not a great understanding of the needs of
business. In a perfect world, I guess we'd have a council that makes it easier
to do business in Dunedin."
Nominations for the mayoralty and council do not open until July 23, with the
election scheduled for October 9.
Others who could join the race include sitting councillor and Dunedin City
Holdings chairman Paul Hudson, and lawyer Peter Chin, also a sitting councillor
who came within 1400 votes of toppling Mrs Turner at the last election.
Mr Hudson is overseas and has not yet made his intentions public, while Mr Chin
said he would announce his decision "in the fullness of time."
Businessman Lee Vandervis and councillors Teresa Stevenson and Leah McBey have
also publicly declared their candidacy, while former mayor and sitting
councillor Richard Walls has ruled out going for the job again, although he is
expected to stand for the council. The election will be the first to use the
single transferable vote (STV) system.