Mayoral candidates square off
The mayoral debate in videoJANINE RANKIN
Rates, parking, wastewater, legal highs and community engagement were among the issues tackled by three Palmerston North mayoral candidates who vied for voter support at a Manawatu Standard-hosted debate.
Two-term mayor Jono Naylor sat between challengers Lew Findlay and Duncan McCann as the three men tried to define their points of difference before an audience of about 80 people on Thursday night.
Master of ceremonies and Standard editor Michael Cummings fired the big-issue questions, with the audience adding their own about community development, Broadway Ave, youth unemployment, the loss of wards, and the future of the railway station.
The city's debt, which has risen from $46 million 12 years ago and is heading toward $145m, provoked the three most diverse opinions.
Cr McCann, who has been on the council for three years, blamed the other two, who were first elected 12 years ago, for the situation.
"There are better ways to build community and business partnerships to deliver services."
Cr Findlay said he had consistently voted against raising rates and debt.
"We are leaving our children a huge debt, and rates cannot continue to rise, because people can't afford it."
But Mr Naylor said debt was a tool, not a demon, that had been used to pay for wastewater, freshwater, stormwater and roading.
"Those don't sound frivolous to me. If we had paid in cash, rates would have gone up 30 per cent in any one year."
On the topic of the wastewater treatment plant, Cr McCann was less forceful than at other meetings about his promise to get the discharge out of the river and onto land. But he and Cr Findlay said that had to be the goal to work toward, with Cr Findlay wanting government help to spare ratepayers the burden of paying the full cost for the change.
Mr Naylor repeated his view that the amount of money the council spent on wastewater had to be in proportion to the problem and the improvement that could be achieved for the Manawatu River. He said the problem did not justify spending tens of millions of dollars.
Cr Findlay spoke the least, with some simple messages, and familiar lines about his passion for the city and desire for every resident to be proud to live here.
Cr McCann stressed his relative youth, desire to get stuck in and make things happen.
Mr Naylor said people should not vote on the issues, but for the person they thought would best lead, listen, work collaboratively and make the best decisions. Above all, he urged people to ensure they encouraged their friends and family to exercise their democratic right to vote.
Cr McCann: "How nice it is to be here," in his opening comment, after an earlier move to exclude him from the debate because of his low polling, and, "I bleed for the city", troubled by a scratch on his face that trickled blood during his closing comments.
Cr Findlay: "Don't listen to a poll. I know a sports group that was down 8-1 and look what happened," referring to a Manawatu Standard poll that put him at 23 per cent, behind Mr Naylor on 55 per cent, and the America's Cup.
Mr Naylor: "Everyone who lives in Waterloo is now a member of Neighbourhood Support. They are all talking to each other because they hated us so much", on the "incredibly successful" community engagement on possible reserve sales.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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