Mayoral hopeful David Meates wants to change Christchurch disaster rhetoric
Christchurch mayoral hopeful David Meates says he is a “truly independent” candidate who wants to involve more people in decision-making while changing the city’s rhetoric on disasters.
Meates, who was boss of the Canterbury District Health Board between 2009 and 2020, will face Christchurch alderman Phil Mauger in the race for mayor in October’s local elections.
Outgoing mayor Lianne Dalziel is not running.
Mauger was nominated in the race as the traditional candidate for the right – but Meates did not see himself as the candidate for the left, instead saying he was “really independent”.
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In his first interview with Things since announcing he was running for mayor, Meates has said he’s been “firmly in the middle” of the political spectrum.
He said he would be “very different” from Dalziel, although he praised her service and said she had put the basic building blocks in place, and he was considering the next phase.
He said he wanted to change the rhetoric of the city, to make it more confident, forward-looking and vibrant, instead of being “a place that has just suffered every disaster imaginable”.
It was “unusual” for a city like Christchurch to have three higher education institutions, Meates said.
“There’s a lot of innovation, a lot of opportunity that lies here, and yet I think we’re kind of entrenched in the last decade of earthquakes.”
Meates has spent the past nine months working in the UK.
He said it gave him a different perspective on Christchurch. “To really step away and kind of see it for what it is, from the outside in, that was a very powerful element for me to make the decision to come back, [and run for mayor],” he said.
Meates said he had “a lot of pressure” from a number of people to consider running.
He said he wanted to connect and engage with communities and give more decision-making power to the city’s six community councils.
“Local communities really know what’s important to them,” Meates said, and if empowered, they could make a real difference in their neighborhoods.
In the council’s 2022 resident survey, satisfaction with the council fell to 42% – a 15-year low.
Meates said his health background – leading large, complex organizations that had “difficult and thorny” issues – was an advantage.
He said his own track record showed he had built “more health facilities and large structures than anyone else in this country”, with a record of delivering amid strict constraints and pressures.
He said Mayor’s rival Phil Mauger’s proposal for a traveling crew to help fix the trails was already available through the council.
“You have to be very careful to only come up with random patches,” Meates said. “We need things that are going to be sustainable solutions for a city.”
Meates said the core functions of the council should be exemplary, but added: “The role of councilors is not to be there to do, [their] The role is to have an organization that is responsive.
He asked, “Does the town need a leader, or does the town need someone who will try to solve all the problems that are there today?”
On the stadium issue, Meates said it was important to get the project off the ground, but he wanted more certainty on costs before moving forward.
Despite this, he said the city needed to go beyond the stadium. “The longer this remains as a festering sore, the more the city will continue to be divided and grumpy.”