A surprise candidate has emerged for the Queenstown Lakes mayoralty - former three-term councillor and ex-publican John Mann.
In the race to replace Vanessa van Uden, who’s stepping down at October’s elections, Mann’s up against prominent Queenstown businessman Jim Boult, Wanaka-based deputy mayor Lyal Cocks and Glenorchy maverick Al Angus.
The 66-year-old Queenstowner, who’s only standing for the mayoralty, says he believes he can make a better contribution than Boult or Cocks because he’s offering two for the price of one.
“Lyal, arguably, has as good a local government experience as I have, and he’s a good operator, but I would put it to him that he may not have the same commercial experience that I have.
“Jim Boult’s got a great deal of commercial experience but hasn’t got any local government experience.
“My particular skill-set and experience gives me the advantage that I would hit the job of mayor running - I won’t need ‘L’ plates.”
Mann says his record of chairing council committees for six years is “bloody good”, and that nobody can fix the big-picture items facing the district without taking the team with them.
He’d reinstate council committees - “I voted against [disbanding them]”.
As finance committee chairman in his last term, he oversaw a restructure that culled a lot of council jobs.
“The bit that I don’t think we got quite right was the rebuild, and I think that is still the position we’re in.”
He’s proud he oversaw a zero rates increase, but doesn’t believe that was at the cost of infrastructure work.
Mann promises “innovative solutions to manage our growth”.
“I’m not saying that the present [councillors] were asleep or anything like that, I think everybody was caught out by the size and the speed of the growth.”
He doesn’t support council candidate Val Miller’s call to halt development till infrastructure catches up - “so many things are actually funded by growth”.
Plans are in place to fix traffic congestion, he says - “we’ve just got to get on and do them”.
He doesn’t favour ratepayers funding council’s proposed convention centre.
Mann says he stood down from the council in 2013 because after 40 years in the hospitality industry - including being the last publican of Queenstown’s last original pub, Eichardt’s - he wanted to join the newly-formed district licensing committee, which he’s been a commissioner and member of.
He’s continued as a judge of national hospitality awards and as a caterer in the business he co-owns with wife Ann.
Now, in a possible crack at Boult, who’s said he’d keep some directorships, Mann says he’d divest himself of all his interests to concentrate on the mayoralty.
He adds that despite offers of help, he wants to be seen to be independent.
“So my family is funding my campaign.”
A keen petrolhead, he says he used to race Formula 5000 cars, just as Boult did.
“He sold his before I bought mine so we’ve never raced each other - till now.”