Former Dunedin mayor Dave Cull dies aged 71

Former Dunedin mayor Dave Cull has died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the Otago Daily Times understands. He was 71.

Cull was diagnosed in October last year and received chemotherapy treatment.

He had been diagnosed with a tumour on his pancreas earlier that month and told the Otago Daily Times he knew then he was likely to face a tough journey ahead.

He spent about five weeks in hospital earlier this year before being discharged in March.

He then spent four nights at the Otago Community Hospice in Dunedin before returning home.

He had three terms as mayor and decided not to seek re-election in 2019, opting instead to pursue a position on the Southern District Health Board.

Cull was elected and then appointed chairman in December 2019, but his stint with the board lasted only until October last year, because of the health challenge he faced.

He was married to Joan Wilson and they have four grandchildren, aged from 2 to 15.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said on social media he had lost “a colleague, a friend, and a mentor”.

“He was typically philosophical about his battle with cancer, talking about how it gave him the opportunity to grow as a person.

“I was lucky enough to spend some time with him over the past week reflecting on his public service.”

He said his thoughts went out to Cull’s family.

“Politics is unforgiving on families. Most of all today, my love goes out to [his wife] Joan and their wider whānau, who had only just managed to convince him to retire.

“I know he was looking forward to spending more time with his mokopuna.”

Hawkins said Cull took on the mayoralty at a time when the city was “bitterly” divided over the new stadium project and spent the best part of a decade bringing focus on the council’s strategic direction.

“The strength of our current relationships with local iwi are also built on his shoulders.”

He said Cull’s leadership of Local Government New Zealand was critical in building wider sector support for future-focused decision-making, particularly around climate change.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times last month after returning home from hospice, Cull said he continued to find people’s visits uplifting and he was getting rest.

Cull said his prognosis had reinforced for him the importance of having honest conversations with family.

He tried to be open with them about his illness, and he said it had provided opportunities to continue to learn.

He said the hospice was not a gloomy place. There was often a vibe of joy, he said.

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