Hamilton mayoral candidates' debate turns on water
Hamilton has a three-way battle for mayor on the evidence of last night's Waikato Times mayoral debate, with "paying for water" separating them.
About 200 people turned up to Wintec's Atrium in central Hamilton last night and, while most came to listen, things got more fiery as the night went on.
Julie Hardaker, Dave Macpherson and Ewan Wilson stood out from the bunch, speaking confidently on a range of issues and making it clear who they thought their major threats were, with persistent attacks on each other.
Water metering proved easily the issue of the night, and generated the biggest reactions from the audience, followed by the vexed issue of fluoride.
Ms Hardaker's chief rivals sniped at her support for residential water meters and the V8s exit deal that saw race assets sold for a fraction of their cost, while she focused on claiming credit for recent economic successes and the future.
In a confident pitch Ms Hardaker emphasised she had "inherited a mess", with a council that was "running deficits and adding millions of dollars each year".
"V8s fixed, Claudelands fixed, CBD experiencing the most investment in a decade," she ticked off her mayoral tenure's successes for the crowd.
Mr Wilson set out his wares, differentiating himself from Ms Hardaker on issues such as fluoride, water metering and the ignominious end to the city's V8s hosting. His pitch relied heavily on economic development, with his intention to sell down some of the city's airport shareholding to fund runway lengthening, and reinstate an economic development committee to chase jobs and investment.
Mr Wilson talked about the successes in luring CTC Aviation and the Dairy Goat Co-operative when council last had an economic development committee, but Ms Hardaker fired back, arguing it "wasn't about throwing money around. It's not about committees, and using ratepayers' money to prop up the private sector".
Mr Macpherson played up to his street-fighting political reputation, firing shots at the mayor over her muted response to proposed AgResearch job losses.
"It was a big blow, and what did our mayor say about that? Nothing." We were put to shame by Dunedin," he said in reference to that city's fast response. He took aim at Ms Hardaker's support for residential water metering: "Our mayor openly states she supports water metering for an estimated $16 million cost."
Water metering was also a persistent topic for questions from the floor, with Ms Hardaker coming under particular scrutiny for her alleged inconsistency.
She supported water metering as a demand-management measure, but categorically ruled out any moves towards privatisation of the city's water.
"A vote for Dave Macpherson or Ewan Wilson as mayor is a vote for the past."
Less well-known candidates also took their chances in the debate, hosted by Times editor Jonathan MacKenzie. Jack Gielen the first name out of the hat and resplendent in feather headress, aired policies seemingly spearheaded by getting rid of incumbents with his literal "new broom". Tony Dixon had clearly been researching the numbers, pointing out the city council's debt-to-income ratio was 2.5 times what it had been a decade ago.
Ian Hanley serenaded the crowd but had some serious things to say, promising if elected to "run a council that will work co-operatively with the councillors". He is pro-fluoride, anti-meters and wants to sell down the city's airport stake.
Arshad Chatha won laughs, claiming he was sponsored by the Waikato Times, a reference to his appearance on its front page in an article revealing he was on bail and had served time for fraud. He was standing "against all injustice" and encouraging ethnic candidates. More photos, page 12
- © Fairfax NZ News
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