The big battle for Tauranga

By GRAHAM SKELLERN, ANNA BOWDEN


Roading. Education. Retirement.
These are three of the biggest issues that Winston Peters and Bob Clarkson will be fighting over as the election campaign gets properly underway.
Labour Party candidate Sally Barrett, like Mr Clarkson a first-time campaigner, intends to wear out her shoes "connecting" with as many people as she can in the lead up to the election.
Mr Peters, the New Zealand First leader and MP for Tauranga, and National Party candidate Mr Clarkson today both welcomed the September 17 election, saying: "We are set to go."
Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the date yesterday afternoon.
Mr Peters said it was a matter of issues in Tauranga - from education costs, retirement security to road funding.
"A long campaign is what we wanted. I don't take anything for granted but I've spent 21 years campaigning around Tauranga and we are quietly confident of the outcome.
"There's no substitute for experience and I've got youth on my side ... by five years," said Mr Peters, whose party is looking to hold the balance of power after the election.
Mr Clarkson, Baypark stadium owner and first-time political candidate, said he had been campaigning virtually since November.
"We have all our ducks lined up and our campaign will follow the National Party policies," he said.
"My drive is to get things done and produce results for the city - that can only be done if National is in power and I'm the MP."
Mr Clarkson has a similar roading policy to Mr Peters - that all petrol taxes should go into highway construction - and there should be no tolls on the harbour bridge. Mr Clarkson also wants to free up the Resource Management Act.
Mr Clarkson said he had already talked to a lot of people and made plenty of speeches.
"We are providing a real alternative and we have a better than real chance."
Asked if his political inexperience would count against him, Mr Clarkson said: "I'm not worried about that.

Companies hire a new boss to get things moving. Winston has been lying around New Zealand First for 13 years and Tauranga needs new blood."
Mr Peters goes into the latest campaign protecting a big lead. He regained the Tauranga electorate in 2002 with 17,145 votes, well ahead of Labour's Margaret Wilson 6783 votes and National's Tim Macindoe 5312.
Mr Peters said he will be launching his campaign in the city on Sunday next week. "The strategy is different but I can't unveil it now."
Mrs Barrett, a 47-year-old school teacher, entered the race for the Tauranga seat in May and intends to remind the public of the good the Government has done.
Mrs Barrett, who replaced Margaret Wilson after she became Speaker of the House, had already worked towards raising her public profile by visiting retirement villages and other local homes.
She was now going to step up her interaction within the community.
"Running a positive campaign is my focus," she said, "what I will be getting out and reminding people of is that a change back to the policies of the 1990s will mean a huge change in their lives."
Currently an English teacher at Tauranga Girls' College and mother of two, Mrs Barrett is yet to finalise leave from work in order to run her campaign.
"I will be taking leave without pay, but for exactly how long, I don't know," she said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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