Wigram candidates battle over commercial water tax and Christchurch rebuild
Labour's proposed tax on commercial water use and the Christchurch rebuild are emerging as the hot topics in the Wigram electorate – a potential hot seat this election.
Wigram has been held by Labour's Megan Woods since 2011 and before that by Alliance's Jim Anderton. But over the past few decades, the margin between blue and red has been narrowing and is within National's striking distance.
Wigram's five candidates battled it out for their electorate's votes on Sunday afternoon at the St Peter's Anglican Parish Hall in Upper Riccarton, where the water tax was the most discussed topic.
Thirty-five members of the public, mostly middle-aged and older, attended the candidate debate between seat incumbent Woods, National's David Hiatt, New Zealand First's Tane Apanui, Green's Richard Wesley and the Democrats for Social Credit's John Ring.
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Hiatt said Labour's water policy would mean a more expensive New Zealand.
"It means a consumer pays system. We'll all end up paying more for milk, fruit and vegetables," he said.
He said Labour's West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O'Connor, had not come out to support it, which showed he had reservations. Woods disputed this when she got up to speak and said all Labour MPs supported it.
"All 31 members have had to come out and support this policy, I think it's unfair to single out Damien like that," she said.
Wesley supported the tax, while Apanui described any sale of land to foreign entities as "abhorrent" and Ring said he would support whoever he was in coalition with.
One audience member raised the concern that companies like Coca Cola Amatil would be exempt from Labour's proposed tax because they were linked in to city water assets. Woods said it was up to cities to decide whether they taxed water or not.
Another heated issue at the debate was the Christchurch rebuild, with all candidates but Hiatt expressing frustration with the amount of time it was taking.
Woods was scathing of the Government's role in the rebuild.
"Christchurch is slipping off the Government's radar. For Labour it is a frontbench position for us. We don't even kow who is going to own the Convention Centre," she said.
Hiatt said once the anchor projects were finished they would be world-class.
"We'd all love to have seen these projects delivered fast than they have been. The convention centre is kicking off next week," he said.
Apanui said Environment Canterbury seemed to have become the "enemy of the people", while Wesley also attacked the Government's role in the rebuild.
"They've been penny-pinching the entire time, taking control out of Christchurch City Council. We need our control back for our elected representatives," Wesley said.
Other issues raised were child poverty, homelessness in central Christchurch, euthanasia and the rebuild of St Peter's Church.