The Internet-Mana party made its first and final South Canterbury pre-election appearance last night in Pleasant Point, though without party founder and backer Kim Dotcom, to the disappointment of some attendees.
Internet Party leader Laila Harre, being paid an MP's salary during the election campaign by Dotcom, criticised the growing divide between politicians and the public, and told the meeting of about 50 people she had been shocked to learn of accusations about professional politics in journalist Nicky Hager's new book, Dirty Politics.
Harre said her party wanted to extend faster broadband in towns, using wireless technology to extend schools' existing fibre connections.
Internet Mana's Dunedin North candidate, Robert Stewart, apologised to the mostly younger audience for Dotcom's absence due to "urgent family issues".
It had been announced via Facebook early in the afternoon, but several attendees left during the meeting after a recording of Dotcom was played instead.
In it, Dotcom said: "We are not going to grow the pie and our GDP (gross domestic product) with milk."
He believed employment could be increased by improving New Zealand's internet speeds.
Press secretary Pam Corkery said she was unaware Pleasant Point was not in Timaru until the day of the meeting, but the party had been heartened by the turnout.
Timaru Boys' High School pupil Todd Buchanan, who may vote for the first time on September 20, said he attended the meeting to "get a good idea of what choices are out there".
He and his friends were aware Dotcom would not be attending but said they were interested in the new party regardless.
Mana candidate Annette Sykes said Maori unemployment, imprisonment and poverty rates were unacceptably high, and the minimum wage should be raised to $18.80 per hour. The party wanted to "build 10,000 state houses every year until we don't need them any more", if it became part of the next government.
Truck driver Brent Lindsay wanted to know if Mana would support the Maori Party's draft ban on foreign companies buying New Zealand land.
Harre said the party was opposed to foreign ownership of assets in New Zealand, and would also oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, inside and outside Parliament, if elected.
- The Timaru Herald