Candidates' last hurrah

A boisterous and passionate crowd last night added spark to the final candidates meeting in Blenheim before voters hit the ballot boxes on Saturday.

The six candidates standing for the Kaikoura electorate were grilled and heckled by members of the public at the normally quiet Elim Church in Burleigh Rd.

Scrambling for the affections of last-minute swing voters were incumbent MP Colin King (National), Richard Evans (ACT), Steffan Browning (Green Party), Liz Collyns (Labour), Ian Hayes (Libertarianz) and John McCaskey (Democrats for Social Credit). About 80 people attended.

Organised by the Marlborough Express, the lively debate was chaired by Marlborough Community Development Trust member Ross Banbury, who afterwards thanked the parliamentary hopefuls for their ability to absorb ridicule.

The candidates made opening statements, generally along party lines, and gave well-rehearsed answers to pre-set questions from Marlborough Express readers before the forum was opened to the floor.

Green Party candidate Steffan Browning was attacked by National Party hoardings' manager Barry Holdaway over the vandalism of National Party billboards in Blenheim.

Mr Holdaway said the damage cost $2000 and demanded to know who was responsible.

Mr Browning said he felt Greens co-leader Russel Norman dealt with the situation very well.

"It was unfortunate that somebody used satire on a billboard and not somewhere like Facebook where it would be more appropriate."

Mr Browning questioned the $2000 valuation of the vandalism and said he did not think anyone from the Green Party was responsible in Blenheim.

Incumbent MP Colin King was asked what value he had brought to Marlborough during his tenure.

Mr King outlined his work in Canterbury and Kaikoura over the last three years but his one-minute time limit to complete an answer expired before getting to the top of the South Island.

The member of the public was left none the wiser.

Mr King, however, defended the $7000 pay rise for MPs which was announced this week.

"I would invite anybody to take on the job in an electorate the size of Palestine," he said. "It is a daunting task and you have to reapply for your job every three years."

ACT member Richard Hayes advocated the mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system, despite the "teapot tape" saga that has embroiled ACT and the National Party in the run-up to the election.

"It provides a good representation of an increasingly diverse population but it needs tweaking so it can't be rort," he said.

But the unsympathetic crowd got their biggest kicks from Libertarianz candidate Ian Hayes and his free-market policies.

When asked if country-of-origin labels should be mandatory on local produce, he replied: "It doesn't matter."

"Eat what you like, smoke, drink, so long as it doesn't affect anyone else," he said.

The Marlborough Express