19 Jun 2013

Race on for Christchurch mayoralty

9:33 pm on 19 June 2013

The race to win the Christchurch mayoralty is under way with Labour MP Lianne Dalziel announcing she wants the job.

After months of speculation, the MP for Christchurch East and Labour's earthquakes spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that she would challenge incumbent mayor Bob Parker in local body elections in October. This will force a by-election in late November in the seat she has held since 1999.

In an interview on Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Wednesday, Lianne Dalziel would not be drawn on her specific policies, but said she wants more community engagement. She said she would stand as an independent and does not have a running mate.

Ms Dalziel said Bob Parker has failed to unite city councillors and she wants to remedy that. "Councillors themselves talk about an A team and a B team, and there really is room for only one team. Thirteen people plus the mayor, that's not good enough to have an A team and a B team."

Ms Dalziel said she is against partially selling strategic assets, including Christchurch airport, to help fund the city's rebuild following recent damaging earthquakes and wants to improve relations with the Government.

However, Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that, if elected, Ms Dalziel would have to deal with the consequences of years of negative comments about the council and the Government. He said her calling for Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to resign isn't a good place to start a relationship.

"She's spent the last three years bad-mouthing the council, bad-mouthing the Government and the minister over the recovery process - and that is something that she'll need to come to terms with."

Mr Parker said she wouldn't even be running if she hadn't been shuffled off Labour's front bench. "She's claimed that she's going to unite the council and the point that I would probably be questioning there is, as I understand it, she was not able to unite her own party behind the leader of her choice."

Mr Brownlee couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The outcome of the local body election will be known on 12 October.

PM says Dalziel quitting over party concerns

The Prime Minister says Lianne Dalziel is quitting national politics because she sees no future with the Labour and it is clear that the party is in difficulty.

John Key last week accused Labour of hypocrisy after four MPs accepted corporate hospitality from SkyCity at the first All Blacks test against France earlier in June despite being a staunch opponent of a proposed deal with the casino to build a convention centre in Auckland.

Mr Key on Wednesday cited this as an example of problems within Labour.

"There's a real concern within the Labour camp. All the things that we see is that they're not doing terribly well at the moment. You can see by what happened at SkyCity that they're quite divided internally when you've got senior MPs doing pretty silly things like that.

"They're obviously not getting much leadership at the top and I think that she's just decided that their chances are quite low, so she's leaving."

Mr Key said the National Party would contest a by-election in Christchurch East, but had no expectations of winning.

'Clear choice' for voters

Christchurch City Councillor Peter Beck said voters now have a clear choice for the mayoralty and there are divisions within the council that need to be mended.

Mr Beck, who isn't seeking re-election, would not say which candidate he prefers.

"I'm just delighted that she's chosen to make the step. As I've been saying for a very long time, I think what we need in this election for mayor is two seriously good candidates for the city to have a good choice.

"With Bob and Lianne we've got that. I think it's good for democracy, I think it's good for each of them and I hope that the city has a clear choice and makes a clear decision in October."