8 Oct 2016

Christchurch election: Asset sales and rates rises rankle

12:59 pm on 8 October 2016

Analysis - A lack of high-profile challengers for the Christchurch mayoralty and councillors in four out of 16 wards standing uncontested has made for a some what lacklustre election campaign in Christchurch.

Lianne Dalziel

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo: Supplied

Street corners have been relatively free of billboards and the main mayoral debate at the cardboard cathedral failed to pull a capacity crowd.

The last day for getting postal votes in was Wednesday and as of 7pm that night only 30 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot.

That compares to 43 percent at the same stage in 2013 and 52 percent in 2010.

Veteran activist John Minto has waged a plucky campaign against Lianne Dalziel, taking her to task on her council's plan to sell $600 million worth of assets.

The mayor appeared to back down on the policy at the end of the cathedral debate, saying "not one single share in one single company needs to be sold to balance the books".

Christchurch mayoral candidate John Minto

Christchurch mayoral candidate John Minto. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mr Minto was not having it for a minute and the next day Ms Dalziel climbed down on her pledge saying she could not discount ever needing to sell assets at some stage in the future.

Rates rises are another hot topic with increases of 5 percent being promised each year for the next three years and greater numbers than ever before falling behind on their payments.

Mr Minto has promised to keep any rises to the rate of inflation, currently less than 1 percent, and to make up the money through a $160,000 cap on staff salaries.

Fresh faces guaranteed

Four of the 16 council seats have already been filled thanks to a lack of challengers and in all but a handful of them, the incumbents are looking likely to make it back in for another term.

But an increase in the size of the council from 13 councillors to 16 means no matter what happens there will be some fresh faces around the table after this weekend.

It remains to be seen if the dominant, Labour aligned, People's Choice faction, which is standing candidates in most wards, will add to its current contingent of six councillors and end up with a majority around the council table.

The traditionally less-high-profile regional council elections could attract some interest this year.

For the past two terms Environment Canterbury has been run by government appointees but this year Cantabrians get to choose who should head the organisation.

Interest in the race is tempered however by the knowledge that six of the 13 seats will be filled by appointees, four chosen by the government and two by Ngāi Tahu.

The seven elected councillors would come via a ward system some say has been gerrymandered in favour of rural voters, with three representing rural wards and just four standing up for the interests of those in Christchurch.

This was despite the fact the city is home to a greater number of voters.

Voting papers can still be handed in at the council building or at libraries and service centres around the city until midday Saturday.

Preliminary results should be known by mid-afternoon.

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