It's taken more than a month but the race for a seat on the regional council has finally sparked into life.
Monday's meet the candidates meeting at Hamilton's Cafe Agora began like so many, with smiling hopefuls thanking a largely grey-haired audience for taking the time to attend.
Then came the campaign pitches, as candidates explained, in 90 second spurts, all that was wrong (or right) with the sprawling regional body.
Eight out of the nine Hamilton constituency candidates agreed preserving and enhancing water quality was the No1 environmental issue facing the region, followed by protecting biodiversity and natural heritage.
Political newcomer Guy Sowry stressed his scientific credentials, and his opponents' lack of, saying he was the only hopeful with the technical nous to really get to grips with the environmental issues.
''I want to turn around the slide into environmental decay,'' he told the 50-strong audience.''I'll be carefully looking at staff reports, not just reading the summaries.''
Mr Sowry's pitch drew an immediate response from Rates Control candidate Jane Hennebry. ''I have a degree in common sense,'' Mrs Hennebry said before taking aim at the voting records of independent candidates seeking reelection.
Mrs Hennebry said her four-member team had voted against the council's $6 million grant to the Home of Cycling Trust and claimed credit for shelving plans to build a new $34m office block in Hamilton East.
''It's about sorting out needs and wants. If the velodrome is core business then I'm the man in the moon,'' Mrs Hennebry said to applause.
In reply, incumbent Paula Southgate reminded voters she and councillors Lois Livingston and Russ Rimmington didn't take part in the decision whether or not to grant $6m to the trust.
Ms Southgate and Ms Livingston subsequently voted in favour of approving the final sign-off of the grant.
Ms Livingston was next to challenge Mrs Hennebry, saying all 12 councillors voted to shelf plans for the $34m office block until the council better understood the nature and scope of local government reforms.
Mr Sowry said he had worked in the council's current Grey St headquarters and described it as ''inefficient''.
''At the moment you've got staff spread across a number of different buildings. Eventually we will have to build another building. It's whether we do it now or leave it to our children to pay for,'' he said.
''Not on my bloody rates,'' one disgruntled audience member called out.
Adding her voice to the debate, Rates Control candidate Mischele Rhodessaid one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the region was the need to keep 1080 poison out of the environment.
''1080 kills anything that breathes oxygen. It causes a cruel death and we can do better,'' she said.
Aerial 1080 is used for between 5 and 7 per cent of the region's pest control operations.
Candidate Bob Simcock said Ms Rhodes' comments highlighted the flawed thinking of Rates Control members, with the ticket focusing solely on project costs at the expense of all other variables.
''Without the destruction of pests in our region, we will have Tb back in our herds. Where scientific evidence supports the use of 1080 then I say yes,'' Mr Simcock said to pockets of applause.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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