Waitaki district mayoral and council candidates have faced their community at several Meet the Candidates events this month.
The gatherings have been held across the region, giving residents and ratepayers the opportunity to learn more about the two mayoral and 20 councillor candidates, and meet them face-to-face.
More than 100 people attended the Rotary Club of Oamaru meeting, held at the Brydone Hotel last Wednesday, to meet the Oamaru, Corriedale and Waihemo ward candidates.
Keegan Wilson and Jock Howie, standing for Oamaru ward, were not present.
Ahuriri candidate Brent Cowles, who stands unopposed, was present at the meeting, but did not speak.
Each candidate talked briefly about their background, and what they stood for, before facing questions from the audience.
Topics covered, included Three Waters, Oamaru Hospital, vaccine roll-outs and mandates, roading, the council’s transformation programme and community diversity.
When asked if candidates supported the Government’s Three Waters reform, 15 candidates said they were opposed.
Mayoral candidate Paul Mutch said he supported it until there was an ‘‘alternative to getting good water’’, while council candidates Scott Elliffe, Tim Blackler and Garry Dodd did not believe it was a yes or no answer.
All candidates unanimously agreed there was a need for public transport in the district.
Candidates answers were split when asked if they agreed with the vaccine rollout and mandates — some agreed with the vaccine, but not some mandates, others did not agree with it, while some said they were in favour of both.
Incumbent councillor Hana Halalele, who ran vaccination clinics with the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group, received a large round of applause when she said she made ‘‘no apology’’ for helping protect her community.
Incumbent councillor Jim Hopkins also received a loud response when speaking about the impact central Government was having on the district’s roads, and the work being done to them.
‘‘This is typical of what’s happening at the moment. Wellington is not only saying what we have to do, but how we have to do it,’’ Mr Hopkins said.
‘‘Less Wellington, more Waitaki.’’
Candidates were also asked their views on whether the Oamaru Hospital could change from being a council-owned hospital, if it was proven to be more beneficial.
Mayoral candidate Paul Mutch said the only way the hospital could receive equal Government funding was if the funds were held in a separate trust, with trustees who were not part of the council.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who is seeking his fourth term, said the belief the hospital was better off being owned by a trust separate from the council was ‘‘simply not correct’’.
‘‘There is no difference around the funding that happens between the hospital that’s owned through a CCO (council-controlled operation) by the community, with a hospital that’s owned by a trust,’’ Mr Kircher said.
‘‘The reality is at the moment if it was going to be more beneficial than keeping the ownership the way is it, I’d totally support that.
‘‘It is fundamentally inequitable that hospitals around the country can run deficits and the tax payer goes and pays that deficit, when our one runs deficits, and if it comes to that, which is hasn’t yet, because there’s only ever been loans, if it comes to to it then the ratepayer has to fund it and that is not fair.’’
Another meeting held at Oamaru’s Business Hive on Tuesday evening, was co-ordinated by Business South Waitaki navigator Rebecca Finlay, and attended by about 60 people.
Sitting councillor Kelli Williams, Corriedale Ward candidate Guy Percival, and Waihemo Ward candidate Gervais O’Reilly were not present.
Each candidate spoke for three minutes, and then had the opportunity for a ‘‘speed-dating’’ style chance to interact with the audience.
People were moved around every three minutes, and members of the audience had the opportunity to speak to the candidates one-on-one, before the evening wrapped up with a 30-second quick-fire summation from each candidate.
Other meetings have also been held in Hampden and Palmerston.