Lunch with the candidates


Runtime - 09:55

Roald Dahl wrote, ‘Somewhere inside each of us is the power to change the world’. He may have been right, but not many of us have the motivation, nor the guts, to step up and steer the ship.

Those running for Christchurch City mayor in the upcoming local elections certainly do, and Frank Film decided to get to know the frontrunners.

At first glance, Phil Mauger and David Meates, the two main contenders for the mayoral seat, are fairly similar. They’re both middle-aged white men. But, whilst there may be no points for diversity in this election, the two candidates are in fact chalk and cheese in character. We joined both Phil and David while they cooked us lunch, and then visited their childhood homes. Phil, 64, who was brought up in North Brighton and lives in Fendalton, made souvlaki. He was under the close supervision of his wife, Chrissie, who watched with some trepidation. “He doesn’t cook often,” Chrissie said, and helped him open the bag of wraps.

Phil explained that they’ve been in their family home for 20 years. “It’s quite big, but we’ve got nine grandchildren, eight of which are under the age of nine,” he said. Phil is a Christchurch city councillor for the Burwood ward, and apart from his work as a city councillor, has spent all of his life working in and running the family business, Maugers Contracting Ltd. He left school in the sixth form. When asked why he was running for mayor, Phil said it’s because he knows he can make a difference. “We’ve got to make sure that [the grandkids] have got a good place to live.”

David, 61, who was brought up in Beckenham, made scrambled eggs on fresh sourdough. “I’m a really basic sort of cook, and really like pretty plain food,” he explained. David cooked on his own at his daughter’s house in Bishopdale as his place was getting renovated. “[I come from] a family of ten kids - I’ve got eight sisters, and I learnt my place very early on in life,” said David, who has a Bachelors in Agricultural Science. He has worked as Chief Executive of both the Canterbury District Health Board (South Island’s largest employer) and the West Coast District Health Board, and said he’s running for mayor after being approached by a range of people looking for a different style of leadership. “That’s in terms of listening and working with communities to solve complex problems,” David explained.

And what about the main issues concerning the people of Christchurch? Over lunch, we peppered each with some quick-fire questions. Their responses proved to be a spotlight on the differences between them. Climate change - are we moving fast enough? “Yes, I think we are, we’ve got the climate emergency, but we’ve got to do things,” said Phil, who’s made a name for himself (namely by going out with his digger and digging a trench without permission in 2020) for ‘getting things done’. “Since then I’ve learnt quite a lot about process,” Phil said of the trench-digging. “If I was doing it again I’d be working hard with council staff to get that done.”

“No,” said David in response to the climate change question, “If this is an emergency we’re not moving particularly quickly.” Last book they read? For Phil, a few pages of Winning Elections by Ronald Faucheux. For David, Calling Bullshit by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, about the misuse of data, and Who rules the world by Noam Chomsky. “It’s a terrifying read,” said David, who has only earlier this year broken his silence about his reasons for leaving Canterbury DHB in 2020 after 10 years as chief executive. “We were going to need to make trade-offs about cutting services, and to put it simply I was just not prepared to,” he said.

Cycleways? David was a yes - but also said there are some which aren’t working, and we need to look at why. Phil gave a yes, too, but not to the amount of money we’re spending on them. Both had ridden their bikes recently: Phil on his electric one a couple of months ago, David citing himself as a regular cyclist.

In response to the results of a recent resident survey, which showed council approval rates were the lowest they’d been in 15 years, their differences were again apparent through their strategies for improvement. David brought up his long history of working with teams. “If you can create the right culture and the right environment, it’s amazing what organisations are able to do,” he said. For Phil, the plan if he is elected is to get out in amongst the people at least once a fortnight.

Both identify as Christian; David goes to church ‘periodically’, Phil, ‘not a lot’. Both hope to be remembered as neither right nor left leaning, with David citing experience working with both. We then asked each what power the mayor had. “One vote,” said Phil, “But it’s up to the mayor to get everyone pulling the rope in the same direction.” For David, the mayor represents the moral authority of the community. “In terms of helping set the tone for how a group of councillors need to work and operate,” he said.

The eggs were good. The souvlaki was good. We’ll let you make your mind up about the rest. To see how the candidates responded to the rest of the questions, watch the film at


Director/Series Producer/Researcher: Gerard Smyth
Editor: Oliver Dawe
Story Producer/Researcher: Georgia Merton
Cameraman: Gerard Smyth & Romah Chorley
Production Manager: Jo Ffitch
Sound Mix: Chris Sinclair