EDITOR'S COMMENT: Parties bring out big guns and it's only the beginning

The waiting is over. The guessing is over.
After months of speculation, we have been put out of our collective misery with the announcement this week the election will be held on September 17.
The ink was barely dry on newspapers declaring the election date when Labour announced its policy to deal with student loan debt.
Whatever side of the political fence you sit on, you have to admit that the policy has made a strong impression and is likely to win over some younger voters.
National has tried to introduce an element of fear to dampen down enthusiasm but the reality is that Labour has scored with the first vote-catching policy.
I'm sure it won't be the last carrot dangled in search of our support.
National's much-touted tax policy has been well signalled and will be wheeled out at an appropriate time.
And the surprises won't end there for either of the major parties.
With this being an election that can easily swing either way, there is no doubt the quality and quantity of the "carrots" will go a long way to determining the next government.
We have no choice but to put our faith in our political leaders to offer achievable policies, not vote-catching dreams.
In our own patch, an intriguing battle for the seat of Tauranga is under way.
With all due respect to Labour's Sally Barrett and United Future's Larry Baldock, Tauranga is looming as a two-horse race between sitting MP Winston Peters and the larger-than-life Bob Clarkson.
Peters hasn't faced a high-profile opponent in Tauranga like Clarkson and the huge majorities of most previous elections are unlikely this time.
National has trotted out several feeble candidates in the past, like Tim Macindoe and Katherine O'Regan and apart from O'Regan's near-miss in 1999 after the Coalition break-up debacle, Peters hasn't had to break into a sweat to get elected.
But Peters is too seasoned a political campaigner not to take the Clarkson challenge seriously.
Clarkson knows he has a base of grassroots support in this city through the speedway he funded and built.
He will no doubt have strong support from the many fans that pack his stadium at Te Maunga through the warmer months and the Bay of Plenty Steamers rugby supporters who have made the stadium their home during the National Provincial Championship.
He has a profile just about as high as Peters and is a strong local identity.
Without a crystal ball, it is difficult to find a winner in Tauranga.

The campaign itself and the policies that emerge throughout the next few weeks may well tip the result either way.
Looking south, incumbent MP Tony Ryall is facing a far less colourful race with Labour's Pauline Scott and New Zealand First's Peter Brown his main challengers.
They face an extremely challenging battle to overhaul Ryall who has developed a strong national profile and has held his seat comfortably in the past.
Over the next few weeks, the Bay of Plenty Times will roll out a number of initiatives to bring you the information we hope will help you with your vote.
When electorate nominations close, all candidates will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to you and in the closing week of the campaign they will have another chance to tell you why you should vote for them.
In between we will be looking at the important issues, the key candidates and the major news stories.
No doubt some candidates and parties will grizzle about perceived bias but the reality is that the major parties and the main candidates will receive more coverage.
And geographically, the seat of Tauranga will see more coverage than Bay of Plenty while Coromandel and the Maori seat of Waiariki less again.
Tell me if I am wrong but I believe devoting the same space each day to Peters and a candidate likely to poll only 100 votes is a waste of time and space.
Everyone will have opportunities to spread their message but at the Bay Times we won't lose focus of the key battles in the coming election.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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