Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mayoral candidates tackle disability issues

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Disabled Tauranga residents Tom Bradley (left) and Paul Curry. Photo/John Borren
Disabled Tauranga residents Tom Bradley (left) and Paul Curry. Photo/John Borren

A meeting of mayoral candidates with the Disabled Persons Assembly showed not enough candidates were aware of the needs of the group in Tauranga, a representative said.

Yesterday, the mayoral candidates were given five minutes to explain how they would lead Tauranga City Council to achieve the Disabled Persons Assembly's vision for Tauranga to be the most inclusive and accessible city in New Zealand.

They were also asked how they would fully implement the Tauranga City Council Disability Strategy.

The floor was then opened for questions from more than 50 people with disabilities who were at the meeting.

Convener of the debate Paul Curry said that while several of the candidates did not have much knowledge on disability issues, there were three standouts who understood the idea of Tauranga being the most inclusive city in the country.

"We represent 27 per cent of the population, plus their families.

"There were three candidates that came across really well, understood our needs and the notion of inclusion. We are a big part of an ever increasing population and our numbers are only going to increase over time," he said.

"The council needs to have a really good understanding of that."

What the candidates had to say:

Larry Baldock said it wasn't easy to make a difference. "A mayor has to be able to inspire, to debate and to sway people to go with the vision he has."

Greg Browlness said the aim of reducing and eliminating barriers faced by people in the community was a very worthwhile cause.

Kelvin Clout said everybody should have the opportunity to get ahead in life. "Whether you had a disability or not, it's important you have the ability and opportunity to meet your goals."

Murray Guy said he understood how difficult it was to practically get around the city. The new Tauranga city mayor needed to care and "give a damn".

Hori 'BOP' Leaming said his wife suffered from a disability. "You do need money to help people through their disabilities."

Max Mason said Tauranga had a lot going for it but it could do better. Any new buildings and facilities built in the city centre should be disability friendly, he said.

Steve Morris said Tauranga City Council should be an exemplar employer of people with disabilities. Doug Owens said disabilities matters were all about integration. "It's about pulling people together and understanding what the real needs are."

Noel Peterson said he wanted to see disabled people get a hand up in the world. If elected, he would give all people a voice, he said.

Graeme Purches said he did not want a community development committee but rather a community engagement committee.

John Robson said New Zealand did not have a fair society. He had a profoundly disabled son and he understood the journeys and challenges people with disabilities faced.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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