16 September 2022

The Great Debate: Mayoral contenders put cases at meeting

Housing, rates, Three Waters and the need for retaining workers were some of the major topics opined by nine of the Invercargill City Council’s mayoral candidates, who took to the stage at The Great Debate, facilitated by the Southland Business Chamber last night.

Each of the hopefuls was given two minutes to outline their personal mission and convince the packed audience at the Ascot Park Hotel why they deserved their vote.

Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt was the lone absentee of the night, though MC Scotty Stevenson read Sir Tim’s personal statement.

Councillor Darren Ludlow began his speech by announcing ‘‘rates suck’’. Though increases were inevitable, he hoped to ensure ratepayers received value for their dollar.

‘‘Trust has been pretty much shattered over this past term. We’ve been in the headlines a lot for not the right reasons, and quite often that’s been a leadership thing. That’s something that I want to rein in.’’

Jacqueline Walters spoke on ex-Labour and now independent MP Dr Gaurav Sharma’s recent troubles and the difference between socialism and voluntary socialism.

Broadcaster Marcus Lush, a vocal champion of the city, joked that the debate felt like Invercargill’s version of Burning Man.

He said the biggest issue the city faced was attracting and retaining skilled workers, and that he had the platform to promote and publicise the city and region.

‘‘We’ve all seen the headlines over the last six months, this problem will only get worse. We need to address this by turning Invercargill into welcome city.’’

Deputy mayor Nobby Clark said the last few years been tough in his role, though council function had since improved and was ‘‘in pretty good shape now’’.

Cr Clark said he was passionate about getting the museum open within three years, keeping on the disability workers at the resource centre, and the issue of Three Waters, saying the council would be remiss to not lobby against the Government.

Noel Peterson spoke on the city’s need for strong leadership, which was echoed by Ria Bond who, in making the most of her two minutes, in rapid fire referenced her previous leadership roles in the community and elsewhere.

Mr Stevenson read Sir Tim’s statement which said while Sir Tim took some of the responsibility for the criticism directed at the council, he was not the sole person responsible.

TikTok star Tom Morton clapped the loudest at the closing of Sir Tim’s speech and spoke passionately about the city’s need for more housing.

Toni Biddle began her speech by addressing her history as an elected councillor in 2016 and her role as deputy mayor in 2019 before leaving the council in 2020.

‘‘My parents were hard working, and it was a not negotiable to respect my elders and those who knew more than me. During my time on counsel, I did that and never wavered from what I knew was the right thing to do. What I didn’t realise, and have absolutely learned from my experience, is that in doing so it was at the expense of myself and to that of the community.’’

She later took the opportunity to challenge councillors Ludlow and Clark on the current council’s project costs and whether the city could actually afford it all.

She questioned Cr Ludlow on how much central Government had contributed, and refuted his answer of a third, saying she didn’t believe that for a minute.

If the city did have Government funding, it was not stipulated in the long-term plan and not guaranteed considering after next year’s election there could potentially be a new government, she said.

At the end of the evening, the last question put to the candidates was who they would vote for if not themselves.

Cr Lush chose Sir Tim, Cr Clark picked Ria Bond, and Noel Peterson said he would not vote for anyone else.

Mrs Bond picked Cr Ludlow, Stevey Chernishov said he would vote for Ian Pottinger (who is not a mayoral candidate), Tom Morton picked Sir Tim, and Jacqueline Walter said she would opt to vote in the Southland District Council election, as she lives out of town.

Toni Biddle and Cr Ludlow picked each other.

View the Southland Business Chamber Great Debate livestream recording online here.

Source: Southlandexpress.co.nz – 15 September 2022

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