What do they think?

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2013
back benches
BACK BENCHES: Damian Christie and Wallace Chapman will put the tough questions to a panel of MPs in the Back Benches Auckland Special.

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Back Benches is politics with a pint.

The television show is a highlight on the Auckland political calendar and a chance for Aucklanders to pull up a bar stool and grab themselves a drink while a panel of MPs get stuck into the issues that matter.

Its hosts Wallace Chapman and Damian Christie are gearing up to quiz their guests on everything from public transport to feminism before a live audience for its Auckland Special tonight at The Britomart Country Club.

You don't have to be a political junkie to appreciate it, Mr Chapman says.

"That is what I damn well love about the show. Auckland brings out a huge diversity of people in the community, people that you might not even think would have an interest in politics."

It's all about hearing the authentic voice of a backbench MP, he says.

Tonight's lineup includes Labour leader and Mt Albert electorate MP David Shearer, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, National Party Botany electorate MP Jami-Lee Ross and Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

"I get a bit tired of hearing from the same six people in the media running along party lines and party policy," Mr Chapman says.

"When you've got an MP with a pint of beer or a glass of wine in front of them and they're talking in real terms, unedited, you really get to know the MP. You get to either hate them or really like them a lot more."

The show has been giving Wellington pub-goers the chance to voice their opinions on some of politics' big questions from the iconic Backbencher pub since 2008.

The Unitary Plan and what this actually means for real Aucklanders will be the hot topic of discussion tonight.

"The number one issue in Auckland that I want to talk about is the shocking house prices - they're out of this world."

Transport will be another big one, he says.

The Pt Chevalier radio and television host says it is the way in which transport is shaping Auckland's communities that he really wants to hash out with MPs.

Of the the 22 countries surveyed for the Sovereign Wellbeing Index, New Zealand sits at the bottom of the table in terms of how connected we feel to others.

"And what city is the worst? Auckland. And you know why? Because we are a motorway culture and we don't connect with each other anymore and that's disenfranchising as a community," he says.

But Mr Chapman also hopes the conversation will veer off course to a completely unrelated debate.

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"The biggest show we've had of the year so far was a show on feminism.

"I'd like to hear what Len Brown thinks about that, I want to hear what David Shearer thinks about that."

It is the "really grunty" MPs who speak their minds who have made the best guests, he says.

While his dream guest remains John Banks, Mr Chapman says tonight's lineup promises to serve up some fascinating debate.

To be a part of the action head to The Britomart Country Club, 31 Galway St, from 5.30pm-6pm.

Back Benches Auckland Special will air tonight at 10.40pm on PRIME.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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