Candidates have their say

By John Cousins

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Aerial. Tauranga City CBD. Unpublished - please keep BOP 16Oct09 - PICTURE PERFECT: Tauranga City, New Zealand. SQF 28Oct09 - BOP 28Oct10 - BOP 02Feb13 - BOP 12Feb13 -
Aerial. Tauranga City CBD. Unpublished - please keep BOP 16Oct09 - PICTURE PERFECT: Tauranga City, New Zealand. SQF 28Oct09 - BOP 28Oct10 - BOP 02Feb13 - BOP 12Feb13 -

With only six weeks to go before election day, John Cousins asks the eight candidates vying to win the Tauranga seat what they see as the big issues facing the area.

Act
Stuart Pedersen wants to cut the "green tape" by overhauling the Resource Management Act to allow sustainable growth.

He said he particularly wanted the country's largest industrial port and favourite seaside resort to continue to co-exist happily at Mount Maunganui.

"As a keen sailor, I think that on-going co-operation between the port company, other harbour users and residents is the solution -- not bureaucratic interference from Wellington."

Mr Pedersen did not favour "the state picking economic winners". He said Tauranga had enough going for it to ensure that, with lower and flatter taxes, good innovations and developments would continue to come here.

He wants to see an improvement in the compassion and understanding between elements of Tauranga's aging population and those who had arrived in New Zealand "before and after us".

"No group should have legal privilege because that just fosters resentment."

With good leadership, the Treaty claims process could eliminate the serious economic disadvantage of many Maori in Tauranga. A welfare safety net and many charity groups were there to catch individuals of all races who needed help.

Mr Pedersen said people needed to vote intelligently to avoid a coalition government of odds and ends from the left.

The Greens
Ian McLean says Tauranga City Council's debt has limited its options to deal with urban design and other environmental issues such as stormwater.

"In the good old days councils turned gullies into industrial sites and they are now reaping the cost of those decisions."

Stormwater costs for Tauranga were $200 million and rising. Global warming and sea level change meant some of these sites would have to be abandoned.

He said the days of cheap oil had led to an obsession with building roads, resulting in poor urban densities, which in turn led to huge problems trying to make public transport work. Low-cost housing had created all sorts of problems that were difficult to fix.

Dr McLean said the Government needed to make sure the legislative structure supported councils' responsibilities so councils could provide people with lifestyle and infrastructures they deserved. Successive governments had tinkered constantly with the Resource Management Act.

Central government should be tackling income inequality and taking to heart social issues that had put enormous numbers of people into poverty, he said.

Independent
Rusty Kane said everyday living costs were really hurting Tauranga people and the Government was leaving a lot of them behind.

"A lot of Tauranga people are not getting any trickle-down benefits from the so-called rock-star economy. They are still working and struggling on low incomes and not getting the benefits."

He wanted the minimum wage raised to a living wage so that people could afford to go out and take part in the community. "It is all about internal spending."

People were expected to have mortgages when they were already lumbered with tertiary education loans and living costs. "A lot of Tauranga people are not prospering."

Mr Kane likened society to a healthy tree in which the roots should be kept fertilised and the tops trimmed.

He also wants the Government to take over the Route K debt and remove the tolls so that traffic flowed naturally without motorists opting for Cameron Rd and Cambridge Rd.

Mr Kane supported the complete removal of the Rena provided it was possible.

National
Simon Bridges said the economy was the election's most important issue and the construction of new homes was an important driver of Tauranga's economy.

He said the city needed more affordable houses for young people and he hoped the Government would have more to say about that before the election.

The Government was talking with the Tauranga and Western Bay councils about Special Housing Areas and Housing Accords to ensure that increased numbers of young families were given the option of quality but affordable homes. "We are not complacent about housing and we want to give a clear direction over the coming weeks to show that we are motivated to get young families into their own homes."

Mr Bridges said Tauranga was a lifestyle destination and it had land that could be freed up for affordable housing.

He said the Government's economic direction affected everything else, whether it was people having the confidence to take out a mortgage, employers taking on more staff or the Government providing more services.

Mr Bridges said Tauranga had a higher proportion of children and the elderly than the rest of New Zealand. Social services, schools, hospitals, and law and order were top issues with local voters and critical areas for the Government.

Labour
Rachel Jones said she was seeing a lot of Tauranga people not participating in the supposed economic boom, with a number of issues at play such as security of employment and wages.

"I am meeting so many people that are struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent."

Dr Jones said there was a big issue around the availability of rental and emergency housing, with under-funded non-government agencies telling her they were struggling to meet demand.

"You end up with the under-resourced trying to help the under-resourced."

The shortage of rentals was particularly felt by people at the lower end of the social scale. She said it was a vicious circle because if families could not find a house quickly they moved in with whanau or friends, that house became overcrowded, illness spread rapidly and health issues spiralled out of control.

State housing needed to be boosted because Housing New Zealand had almost dwindled to a landlord service. The situation was worse in Tauranga as the second most unaffordable city in New Zealand for buying a house.

Dr Jones said there was a need to look at regional development and growing the economy, but to make sure the benefits of growth were shared more equally.

She would rather see the Rena removed although the bigger issue was to prevent another disaster happening.

New Zealand
First Clayton Mitchell said the biggest issue was getting central government to take over Route K and its debt. It was a road of significance for transport users, particularly trucks coming from Auckland and the Waikato heading to New Zealand's largest port.

The debt made up 18 per cent of Tauranga City Council's total indebtedness and having it sitting on the balance sheet, with interest compounding every year, was lowering the council's credit rating.

Getting Route K off the books would increase council's credit rating from AA- to A+ and shave half a per cent off the interest rates paid by the council. "It was a road that was built with good intentions but prematurely."

Mr Mitchell said the new council decided that the only chance it had of getting rid of Route K was to approach the various political parties and make it an election promise. That was the major reason why he agreed to stand for New Zealand First. "The debt will restrict Tauranga's ability to grow ... we will be fighting all the way until it is gone."

Mr Mitchell also wants the wreck of the Rena removed.

NZ Independent Coalition
Michael O'Neill criticised the failure of Prime Minister John Key to meet his 2008 pre-election pledge that a National-led government would meet the full $100 million cost of building the Hairini Link, including a duplicate Turret Rd bridge and four-laning to Fraser St.

Instead the New Zealand Transport Agency was only funding the $55 million underpass linking Welcome Bay Rd with the Hairini causeway, leaving Tauranga City Council to fund the $45 million for the new bridge and four-laning.

Mr O'Neill said there was not much point building the underpass when the two-lane Turret Rd bridge would become the new congestion point for commuters.

He said the Government needed to honour Mr Key's promise to build the entire Hairini Link.

Another big issue was to keep seniors safe, with affordable access to primary health care and a pension that met their needs, he said.

Mr O'Neill also highlighted that the city's 20- to 30-year-olds were the smallest population groups after the over 70s.

"Our youth leave town. There is not the employment opportunities for them here at a fair wage."

The average income for the largest chunk of Tauranga's workforce, the 30-40 age bracket, was under $50,000 a year when the liveable wage for a family was considered to be a minimum of $56,000.

United Future
James Maxwell said the big issues for Tauranga were housing and council rates. "If there was some way central government could help the council, then it should happen."

He said council spending was going up each year but the funding it received to support that was not happening.

Looking at the additional $50 million bill looming up to complete the Southern Pipeline, Mr Maxwell said the Government should look at spending such as funding TV shows and divert that money into infrastructure.

"The Government should be focusing on the essentials -- redirecting funding to essential projects rather than nice-to-haves."

Mr Maxwell also called for more Government support for housing that many people were struggling to afford.

He said the issues of carparking and student accommodation should have been considered along with the location of the university campus planned for Tauranga's downtown. "People have forgotten about the associated things with having a university."

�Candidates standing for Western Bay's other electorates will be canvassed for their views in future editions of Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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