Local candidates seeking a seat in Parliament after the next election set out their views and answered questions at a public meeting at the Salty Dog Inn in Snells Beach last week.
They were Mark Mitchell (National), Marja Lubeck (Labour), Hayley Holt (Green), Tracey Martin (NZ First) and Beth Houlbrooke (ACT).
In their opening remarks, candidates identified issues that were important to them.
Hayley Holt said her top-of-mind issues were tourism and conservation. She especially supported a Green policy that would levy visitors $20 on entering the country. The money would be used to create a predator-free New Zealand, boost Department of Conservation ranger numbers and enhance regional tourism efforts.
Marja Lubeck said her chief concern was the fact that New Zealand had one of the highest teen suicide rates in the OECD. She said mental health care funding should be a top priority and New Zealand should ensure problems were addressed early with the placement of mental health professionals in schools.
Tracey Martin said she was passionate about the status of women and had formed the first subcommittee ever in the NZ First caucus to address domestic violence.
She said it was important to address the causes of such violence rather than simply deal with the symptoms.
Mark Mitchell said a priority focus was building up infrastructure and supporting roading projects, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension and fixing the Hill Street intersection in Warkworth. He added that mental health was also a big concern to him, having lost a brother to mental illness.
Beth Houlbrooke said ACT was all about smaller, smarter government and wanted there to be less government interference in people’s lives. She said ACT also believed in a free society which means freedom of speech, free trade, personal and religious freedom coupled with personal responsibility.
“The smaller the government, the bigger the citizen,” she said.
Candidates gave varied responses to a question about whether they would commit to a binding referendum on whether Rodney stays with Auckland Council or set up its own independent council.
Tracey Martin said NZ First was supportive of the people of Rodney being asked if the Supercity was working for them.
Marja Lubeck said Labour was against forced amalgamation of councils and “bigger was not always better.”
Hayley Holt said the Greens supported re-empowering local government.
Mark Mitchell acknowledged his position was not popular, but felt it would be a bad idea to leave the Supercity. He said in the future, Rodney children would ask why they were not part of the vibrant economic plan that was taking place in greater Auckland.
Beth Houlbrooke said as time went on, it became more and more difficult to undo the Supercity and to attempt to do so would place Rodney in a big hole for a long time.
Candidates also faced questions on health, mental health, education and housing policy.
Tracey Martin said New Zealand cannot keep bringing in 72,000 people each year and not provide housing for them.
“You cannot have people living in cars in one of your major cities and continue to say you can have open migration,” she said.
She drew laughter when she said that now that other parties were beginning to acknowledge this point meant she was now no longer “the only racist in the room.”
Mark Mitchell strongly refuted a charge that under National, New Zealand had experienced $1.85 billion cuts in health spending. He said, in fact, the National Party had continued to increase health funding each year.