By Pauline Stewart.
Five recent Meet the Candidate gatherings have been held across the Peninsula. Coromandel CFM organised the streaming of three of them with their news reporter, John Freer, chairing proceedings. This made the content accessible to whoever had a mobile phone or computer. So many more watched and listened in addition to those physically present. The candidates have had their say as a result of pre-prepared questions from the community and also some from the floor.
The issues: Chairman John Freer said, “People are thinking about the critical things and asking questions about delivery and what will the specific policies look like.” From recordings of the meetings, these are summarised as Healthcare and the health system structure, cost of living, crime, the connection and delivery of local government and the relationship between local and central government - the perceived separatism, and Co-government (unity) These are not listed in any order of priority - just summarised.
I am an Australian and it is compulsory to vote in Australia. Soon they will have a referendum regarding The Voice – a decision has to be made whether there will be a particular body of Aboriginal (first nation) People and Torres Strait Islanders sharing the voice and decision making of the elected Government. This is controversial and there is a great deal of engagement and discussion which will hand down a decision trough the referendum with all eligible Australians having a vote. It is not compulsory to vote here in New Zealand and in many ways that is beneficial. People who want to vote, will and I think more thought will have gone into it.
I urge you to vote. Only dictatorships have people all voting the same way and expressing the same opinion.
Our candidates. It would be fair to say that in these meetings they have publicly demonstrated a respect for one another. That speaks well for our people. There is no doubt that on some issues they disagree quite extremely but on others there is a convergence of policy. In Coromandel town, there was a candidate for the Outdoors and Freedom Party, Sarai Tepou. Sarai is a midwife of thirty years’ experience and an advocate for the revision of policies such as accompanied the Covid vaccine roll-out. Caleb Mansell of New Zealand First was present at Coromandel Meet the Candidates meeting but unable to be at Whitianga due to a medical crisis in the family. Caleb is passionate about equality for all New Zealanders.
There is definitely all representations of the spectrum when it comes to ‘co-government’ Scott Simpson gave a valuable explanation regarding the difference between co-governance and co-government. He spoke of Mighty River Power, Waikato that operated well on a system of Co-governance; but when it comes to elected people sharing the decisions of Government with representatives who are not, it becomes unmanageable. He challenged people to think about the difference between co-government and co-governance.
There was no over-heated or angry confrontation and discussion.
John Freer, Chair of three of the meetings says, “At two gatherings, I asked for a show of hands as to who is yet undecided n the way they would vote. I was surprised to see about 15% of the people put up their hands.” Another community spokesperson said that people seemed confident of their candidate vote but not so for the Party vote. They had come to listen and decide that.
John added, ‘There was a clear indication across the board that people want change. As I say that sometimes, a candidate is not from a mainline party or point of view, but what they have said garnered a lot of support even applause. John confirmed that these smaller parties got a good hearing.
A description sent to The Informer of the summary by each candidate at the Whitianga meeting, followed this line. ‘Scott was concise, stating that we were at a crossroads and need a change; Beryl took another tack and spoke at length about us being the envy of the world; Joanna was about cutting government waste, freedom of choice, valuing people based upon need and unity. Ray said a vote for NZ Loyal was not a wasted vote and talked about the information age. Pamela who reiterated her policies briefly then concluded “Go the Wahs” or “Party Vote Green”, it was hard to tell - but she is to be admired for not wasting a selling opportunity. Most of the candidates had a strong message regarding one or two of their policies that are hard to argue against.”
The challenge is the overall tenacity, flexibility not to change values, but to enact policies that enable people to live respectful of others, and to live generously according to their values. Everyone and every age has the right to be valued and treated equally.
A new enacted policy can be attractive but, in its enablement, it can sour, or nothing really happens due to ‘red tape’ or budget changes in other policies. Again, a promise made optimistically before election, is never realised.
I see that National is promising to uphold the likely decisions and planning currently underway by the current government to spend a lot to turn the neglect of roads and bridges for thirty years on its head. No government in all that period, focused on the enhancement of roading and accessibility infrastructure, probably due to fuzzy policies or the policies of other areas of Government that cut across.
John Freer spoke about two of the meetings he chaired where he actually asked who had come to the meeting undecided as to how they would vote. “There would have been 15% of the audience who were undecided which is a considerable percentage,” says John. “The trend is that the people who attended these meetings have given a clear indication that they want change. Regarding the crowd response to the various candidates; some were not mainstream, but they garnered the support and goodwill from those present and these people are talking passionately about change.”
John also related this telling account. “A young man 15 attended the Whangamata Meet the Candidates. He asked a question of the politicians about education. They appeared to respond well. When asked by the Chair, ‘How did you feel about that response? This is what he said. “I appreciate what the candidates have said, but whoever is successful has to remember to deliver what they said they are going to deliver.”
It brought applause. I think it also brings a sense of foreboding. The responsibility is far more than being popular, or about pleasing people, saying what they want to hear., or having a silver tongue. To be elected is the beginning of another huge undertaking to effect change, and that is what people are expecting and believing needs to happen.
Caption: Meets the candidates attendees - Photo credit: Stephen Holmes.