Employment the key Marlborough issue

MAKING A POINT: Kaikoura electorate National party candidate Stuart Smith talks during a candidates’ meeting in Picton.
MAKING A POINT: Kaikoura electorate National party candidate Stuart Smith talks during a candidates’ meeting in Picton.

Employment is the most pressing social issue in Marlborough with more decent-paying jobs needed, political candidates say.

Almost all of the seven Kaikoura electorate candidates at the Marlborough Express-organised meeting in Picton said the need for more jobs that paid a decent wage was important.

National Party candidate Stuart Smith said the number of old people in the region and its effect on growth was a big concern. It would have a flow-on effect for businesses looking to hire staff.

"We will have more people in rest homes. Where will we get the staff for those businesses? I believe they will be coming from the Pacific Islands."

Money Free Party candidate Ted Howard said employment was an issue, but he thought the wider issue of justice was the most pressing need.

Growing mechanisation would transform the world, making whole sectors of industry no longer needing people to work in them. "There is no way a person's labour can compete with automation."

About 60 people turned out last night for the meeting, held at Endeavour Park Pavilion. The polite crowd gave the candidates a good hearing, with only a few comments yelled out near the end.

The seven candidates taking part were: Ted Howard, Money Free party; Steve Campbell, NZ First; Steffan Browning, Green; Howard Hudson, Conservative; Richard Evans, ACT; Stuart Smith, National; and Janette Walker, Labour.

Two other Kaikoura electorate candidates, Glen Tomlinson from the Ban 1080 Party and John McCaskey from the Democrats for Social Credit party, were unable to attend.

The meeting started with the seven candidates introducing themselves. Two had been in the military: Steve Campbell in the army, and Howard Hudson in the air force.

Hudson had been a commercial fisherman before setting up his own software company. He has a strong interest in automation and nanotechnology, and spoke often about how technology would make work hugely different over the next few decades, so education was hugely important, enabling young people to take part in the new economy.

Browning is a list MP for the Greens and asked for the party vote so he could continue in that role. Before becoming an MP, he grew organic vegetables in Marlborough.

Evans is a consulting engineer with his own business in Blenheim. Having helped people develop their businesses and properties from north Canterbury to French Pass, he had an aversion to red tape and green tape, and wanted fewer rules in people's lives. "But I'm not an anarchist, I just want more control over my own life."

Smith, a grapegrower who led the Save Our Services campaign to keep Wairau Hospital services intact, said he was committed to working for the electorate and giving it a strong voice.

Walker said she had been a forestry worker, a nurse, a factory worker, a farmer and a business owner. Most recently, she worked as a mediator and rural advocate, campaigning against banks' loans swaps to farmers and growers, convincing the Commerce Commission to investigate. The commission is prosecuting four banks for the swaps.

"I get things done."

The candidates were then asked two questions, about how they would help Picton and the Sounds and what they thought Marlborough's most pressing social issue was.

They could then ask each other questions, before the meeting was opened up to questions from the floor. National's Smith and Labour's Walker were asked the most questions, as they are widely seen as the strongest contestants for the electorate vote.

Smith replaced sitting Kaikoura MP Colin King as National's candidate this year. King was elected as Kaikoura's MP in 2005, and had a 11,500-vote majority at the last election. The next strongest candidate in 2011 was Labour's Liz Collyns.

The Marlborough Express