Housing and transport dominate Otaki candidates' platforms
Otaki used to be in the hands of Labour, but lately it's been a safe National seat. Miri Schroeter reports.
National MP Nathan Guy has won over voters in the Otaki electorate since 2008.
Guy, born in Levin, first stood as a candidate for the electorate in 2005. He was unsuccessful then, but his support has increased in the past three elections.
In 2014, he gained the tick of approval from more than half of the electorate's voters, with 20,980 out of 38,286 votes.
He has been the minister for primary industries since 2013 and minister for racing since 2011.
Before entering Parliament, Guy was a Horowhenua District councillor for eight years and he knows the district like the back of his hand, having managed the family dairy and beef farm.
Like the Labour and Greens candidates for Otaki, Guy supports better transport and tougher housing standards, which are some of National's key issues for Horowhenua and Kapiti.
Guy fought to keep the Palmerston North-to-Wellington Capital Connection rail service. He also promotes better regional bus services, but unlike his opposition, Guy said there were benefits to building the Otaki to Peka Peka expressway as well.
Transport and infrastructure were important to the Otaki electorate and improving local health services and supporting senior citizens was also a big priority, Guy said.
"I will continue to lobby MidCentral DHB to provide more health services locally as our population begins to grow.
"Double crewing of St John's ambulances will also help to provide a more reliable service for our elderly."
As well as supporting the key link to Otaki and elder care, Guy wants tougher standards for rental housing – just like his opposition Labour candidate, Rob McCann, who came in second best at the last election.
McCann grew up on a farm and his father, like many farmers, supported National, he said. But McCann went against the grain and started supporting Labour during Rob Muldoon's time as prime minister from 1975 to 1984.
McCann campaigns for better living conditions and an improved health and education sector.
"We have a great country, but if you starve our social services and look into the shadows, you find good people and innocent children who don't have opportunities and are suffering."
Labour could change that, McCann said.
"When I see people fighting to ensure everyone has an opportunity, and when I see Labour members living and breathing those fights, I know I'm in the right party."
Affordable houses in the Otaki electorate and bringing back apprenticeships would entice young families to move to the area, McCann said.
According to the 2013 census, almost 24 per cent of people in Horowhenua are older than 65, compared with 14.3 per cent nationally.
Building houses for low- and fixed-income families, and rent-to-own houses, as well as ensuring rentals had a minimum living standard would greatly improve housing, McCann said.
"A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit a flat. The bathroom ceiling was caving in, black mould was growing on it and the electric fan's wires were exposed. The mother-to-be was about to be induced and a baby was going to live in that environment.
"Despite raising the issue with the property manager, nothing was fixed."
The housing system was broken and the Government wasn't fixing it, McCann said. "That's why I'm a Labour Party candidate."
McCann also wants better healthcare for Kiwis, including after-hours services in the Otaki electorate, which was not well serviced, he said.
With candidates all pitching solutions to rising house prices, stresses relating to an ageing population and transport challenges, Guy cannot sleepwalk to victory.
Votes swayed from party to party in the past two decades.
Labour's Darren Hughes won the seat in 2002 and in the 2005 election he received 46 per cent of the votes, taking the top spot again. But Guy stepped in that year and wasn't far behind with 42 per cent of the votes and he took the seat at the following election.
Hughes left Parliament after a late-night encounter with another man ended in scandal.
Under the old boundaries, Labour heavy-hitter Annette King held the Horowhenua seat from 1984 for two terms, before she lost it to the National candidate, Hamish Hancock. The Horowhenua seat made up half of the current Otaki electorate.
Other candidates include the Green Party's Sam Ferguson, NZ First's Dr Romuald Rudzki, Opportunities' Jenny Condie and United Future's James Maxwell.
Eligible number of voters: 54,270
Total enrolled to vote: 51,191
Percentage enrolled: 94.33 per cent
Last election: Nathan Guy (National) won with 20,980 votes, followed by Rob McCann, with 13,198 votes. The total votes for candidates was 38,286.
National received almost double the party votes of Labour, with 18,854 and 9543 votes, respectively.