“Democracy is well and alive in Taranaki and the New Plymouth District”, Taranaki Daily News Editor Roy Pillott anounced when chairing yesterday’s by-election debate held at the New Plymouth District Council.
At 6.15pm New Plymouth voters young and old half filled the council chambers on Liardet Street. Candidates were in full swing handing out promotional material right from the get-go. Teresa Goodin, Peter Barker and Reuben Doyle were three candidates who hand delivered their flyers to members of public.
A cue from the chair Roy Pillott to turn off cellphones and the candidates were set. “Better turn off my phone”, candidate Morris West giggled.
The overall apperance of the candidates was pretty marginal. Most candidates were in formal wear, apart from West who wore an old, baggy, shirt. This was compared to Port Taranaki CEO Roy Weaver, and TSB Realty agent Reuben Doyle arriving in suits among others.
Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce themselves and Chris Wilkes had the lucky start. His speech was based around the environment and youth development.
“We need to invest in the future of our district, youth” he said.
Wannabe politician Morris West was next, and based his speech around the dead issue of Maori Wards, but then made a surprise dig at the Inglewood and Waitara community boards, adding “I do not believe the community boards do any good”. He then ended his introductory speech by saying he was rich and wealthy which left many confused by what he was trying to put across to voters.
Hot shot political hopeful and leaving Port Taranaki CEO Roy Weaver admitted all of his 12 fellow candidates were at the debate because they care for New Plymouth.
“We care for the community, what our councillors do, and the future. We want to create a platform for our future. Just like our parents created an platform for us,”
“We’re not here to fight each other. We’re here to be the best in New Zealand, and we can be..”
After a large round of applause former councillor Phil Quinny was up to speak about the positives.
“We need to keep building on the positive things. We have become the envy of New Zealand, and I want to be involved in it again,” Quinny said.
Powerco’s Neil Holdom spoke about the future, and the younger generation. Largely dominating the microphone. “I’m concerned about where we are going as a society”, Holdom passionately said in a sad manner.
A elderly Greypower member in attendance told Insiders NZ reporter Michael Riley that Holdom lacked council experience. “He needs more experience and his speech has a very dull outlook on our town”.
Bev Gibson held up a good argument in her three minute introduction. Gibson, who is a trained registered nurse, said she has the same vision for New Plymouth as others in the chamber and is against community water fluoridation.
“I can easily relate to a wide range of diverse cultures. I work very very hard. I am firm but I am fair. I have a tongue of common sense.” Gibson’s passionate presentation won her a round of applause by the audience.
Gibson asked Doyle what happened to freedom of choice. “Greater education about what creates good oral hygiene was a much better solution then fluoride”
“Fluoride can be harmful in large doses,” Gibson said.
Fluoride wasn’t a top issue at the debate though, in fact, candidate Teresa Goodin was trying not to laugh when fellow candidate Reuben Doyle raised the issue.
Doyle, with 17 years in the workforce said he strongly believes in a Team Taranaki philosophy.
Peter Barker was last to speak and dominated his negative speech around the Len Lye Centre and art saying the centre was unnecessary expenditure for New Plymouth and wouldn’t bring anything to the community.
“It’s a total shambles,” he said.
Each candidate stuck rather closely to the issues they had already spoken out in the media and there were no real surprises on the night, the Taranaki Daily News reported.
To end the night on a positive note, Mary Barnard delivered one of the best lines of the night.
Each candidate was tasked with asking one other candidate a question, and she asked Roy Weaver “Why do you think people should vote Mary Barnard?”
After the audience stopped laughing, Weaver replied and said she deserved votes because of her great sense of humour.
13 candidates are in the race for the two seats at the council after two councillors resigned late last year. By-election candidate Rusty Kane was absent from the debate.
Voting packs have been mailed out this week and voting runs until noon on Tuesday, March 10. Results will be announced later that day.