Sir Tim Shadbolt no-show at Invercargill mayoral debate

7:25 am on 15 September 2022
Nine candidates vying for the Invercargill City mayoralty shared their vision for the city during a mayoral debate on Wednesday night. The tenth candidate, incumbent Sir Tim Shadbolt declined his invitation and sent a statement instead.

Nine candidates vying for the Invercargill City mayoralty shared their vision for the city during a mayoral debate on Wednesday night. The tenth candidate, incumbent Sir Tim Shadbolt declined his invitation and sent a statement instead. Photo: Tess Brunton/RNZ

Invercargill's incumbent mayor of more than 20 years was a no show at the latest mayoral debate, but nine challengers picked up the gauntlet and shared their vision for the southern city.

It was a packed room and stage at the Southland Business Chamber's mayoral debate last night, but there was a noticeable absence.

Incumbent Sir Tim Shadbolt, who has been at the helm continuously since 1998, declined to attend and instead a statement was read out, saying he believed the focus would be on how he delivered his message rather than the content.

"After nine terms in office, you should be well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. It is for my challengers to take up the gauntlet and prove themselves to you."

It has been a rocky few years for the council, plagued with governance issues and in-fighting - subsequent reviews have found a lot of progress has been made.

The candidates put their hand up to keep them on the right path.

Current deputy mayor Nobby Clark said there needed to be better communication between the mayor and councillors.

"We don't have any quality time together which allows us to bind together around certain key outcomes that we want to do.

"We just rock'n'roll up to meetings. We debate sometimes and not very much, and we just rubber stamp reports."

Former deputy mayor Toni Biddle said the council could not keep squeezing money out of rates, suggesting some project cutbacks to reduce the costs

"The council has adopted ... $150 million worth of capital works on top of core infrastructure investments.

"And that's what scares me the most because we don't have the affordability to keep up with that."

Radio broadcaster Marcus Lush did not want to see cuts to their city street revamp.

"We've assured the retailers that we would finish it, those retailers have put with diggers and people for months outside their shops.

"We promised them we'd do it, we need to complete it. To not do that would just be unfair on those people."

When asked to describe the role of the mayor, current councillor Darren Ludlow said if council was a circus, the mayor's the ringmaster.

Sir Tim Shadbolt

Sir Tim Shadbolt Photo: Otago Daily Times / Stephen Jaquiery

"The ringmaster has two roles - one to keep the show going and make sure that all the acts are running smoothly.

"But also to present a bit of pizzazz to the people who have come along to see the show as well, and that's a lot of it. You're an advocate, bit of a showman, but it's actually making sure that council runs really well."

Broadcaster and MC Scotty Stevenson put them through their paces, threatening anyone who took a lackadaisical approach to the time limits they'd have to hold a fake lobster for their crimes against time management. While there were a few close calls, no one received the lobster.

Former New Zealand First List MP Ria Bond said the council needed to have a seat at the table when Three Waters is being discussed.

"When we lose our infrastructure and our water rights, we actually lost our investment in our pipes, stormwater, drinking water.

"We need to get up like we did with SIT and let this government know they won't take away our assets."

Current Bluff Community Board member Noel Peterson said he had learnt a lot while sitting in the public gallery at most council meetings.

Housing was an area that self-described TikToker Tom Morton hoped to tackle if he got the top job, saying more building inspectors were needed.

When asked about the biggest risk to the city from climate change, Stevey Chernishov said there should be less focus on building a safe world, and more on adventure.

"To be able to take risks and be able to embrace the fact that we're all going to figure out that there's a storm coming, there's an earthquake coming, let's just be epic."

Scotty Stevenson quipped: "Yes, I think one of the larger concerns for the room, Mr Chernishov, is doing that by not being underwater".

When asked to give her two minute sales pitch, Jacqueline Walter said: "I offer you my servanthood".

Some ratepayers weren't sold on who they'd pick by the end of the debate, with one saying he was unimpressed with a lot more than he was impressed with.

Voting in the local elections opens on Friday.

The full list of candidates:

  • Noel Peterson
  • Nobby Clark
  • Ria Bond
  • Tom Morton
  • Darren Ludlow
  • Stevey Chernishov
  • Toni Biddle
  • Tim Shadbolt
  • Marcus Lush
  • Jacqueline Walter
  • Invercargill councillors lack confidence mayor Shadbolt on top of key issues - report
  • Marcus Lush announces he will run for Invercargill mayoralty
  • Sir Tim Shadbolt: 'I can probably do another three or four terms'
  • Invercargill deputy mayor Nobby Clark enters race for top job