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The Press-News column June 25

The Mayoral Race.

Christchurch, buckle in, stock up the popcorn, we’re in for a thriller. The city’s mayoral chains have not seen a tug-of-war of this year’s proportions, since 1974.  Unlike the last few mayoral races, which ended up being sonamulant cakewalks for the incumbent, I believe we’re facing the most ferociously contested bout since Hamish Grenfell Hay deposed Neville Pickering. But the Parker-Dalziel showdown won’t be fought along traditional political lines, nor can their respective support bases be neatly carved up into Left and Right-leaning  camps. The battleground is far more nuanced this year. I attended Lianne Dalziel’s formal launch on Sunday at Canterbury University. What was most conspicuous was the presence of leading business figures, notably the Chamber of Commerce boss, Peter Townsend. Dalziel has clearly signalled that financial prudence, transparency and integrity will be a central plank in her mayoral platform.  Another strong campaign narrative is likely to centre on the city council’s disconnection. Not only between the council and the city, but reconnecting the council with councillors. A bewildering spate of recent high-profile debacles underscore the scale of the “culture problem.” The consenting crisis, the insurance imbroglio, the South Brighton campground closure and the cavalier attitude to the abysmal waste of $11 million on an uninsured composting plant.  The repeated failure of council staff to respect the role of governance, and to keep councillors’ fully briefed, is toxically breath-taking. Bob Parker has been forced into the invidious position of defending and downplaying the council’s foundering and furtive bureaucracy, when what it really needs is a rocket. As much as policy and vision will be play a crucial role in determining the outcome of this race, leadership style will also pose as a potent voter motivator. Parker and Dalziel personify the power of polarising personalities. The silky sophisticate vs the Amazon of the East. It will get bitchy, it will be a bruiser. It will be a mud-fight. But they are both battle-hardened campaigners. In a sure sign of how personal this tussle will be, last week included the bizarre sight of the mayoress exhorting people on Facebook, to vote for Parker in The Press poll. Christchurch has the two-horse mayoral race it deserves. Anyone who thinks it will be a landslide victory for either contender, is dreaming.

Best in 20.

With last week’s theatrical weather, and even more theatrical media hype now behind us, I would sincerely like to thank those uber-prepared and paranoid Christchurch shoppers who hurtled themselves into panic-buying mode on Wednesday. My weekly grocery shop on Friday was pure bliss. I had the fully-stocked aisles of the St. Martins supermarket virtually to myself, with bargains galore in the bakery. It was the best supermarket experience in 20 years.

Mike Yardley’s weekly column in The Press. Published June 25

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