Taranaki unsure on Labour race

There is no clear winner among the Labour Party leadership candidates just yet, according to New Plymouth party members.

About 90 Labour Party members gathered at the Copthorne Hotel Grand Central in New Plymouth tonight for the tenth of 14 leadership contest meetings around the country.

Rebuilding the party, winning back the trust of New Zealanders and creating jobs in the provinces were common threads in Grant Robertson, Nanaia Mahuta, Andrew Little and David Parker’s speeches.

Media were ejected before the question session to allow members to engage openly with candidates.

Jim Tulloch and Bruce Hammonds, of New Plymouth, agreed after the opening speeches that all candidates seemed even in the horse race.

‘‘They were all talking about the same kind of values; sharing rather than being selfish, the emphasis on being fair,’’ Tulloch said.

Both men said they wanted national rather than local issues addressed, such as the gap between rich and poor.

‘‘I’m not poor but I imagine being poor is bloody tough these days,’’ Hammonds said.

‘‘And hard-workers slaving their guts out all day long and getting nowhere,’’ Tulloch added.

Tulloch said there was a perception Labour looked after the ‘‘down and out’’ when in reality it catered to hard-working New Zealanders.

Both men agreed New Plymouth MP Andrew Little had a strong presence.

‘‘I think a lot of people in New Plymouth will be starting to wonder why they didn’t vote for him,’’ Tulloch said.

Mahuta underlined the importance of jobs to small towns, drawing on her hometown of Huntly as an example.

‘‘When people were in work people were happy because they could look after their family and provide for them.’’

Little got the most laughs with a wisecrack about Taranaki’s recent nasty weather.

‘‘Snow on the mountain in November has never happened under a Labour Government.’’

Robertson said nothing annoyed him more than someone who climbed the ladder of opportunity then yanked it up behind him.

‘‘We’ve got a National Government who’s prepared to sell off state housing, the very thing that gave John Key his start in life.’’

Parker said Labour needed to elevate economic fairness by looking after unpaid interns and addressing the declining demand for labour due to technology.

Moderator Harry Duynhoven asked why if Taranaki was the so-called centre of the National Party’s ‘‘rockstar economy’’, why there were more empty shops in New Plymouth’s CBD since 1989.

The result of the leadership election will be announced on November 18.

Taranaki Daily News