While Tararua District mayoral candidates expressed their passion for the region, the heat and fire at their first combined outing on Wednesday came when an audience member took the current council to task over the liquidation of Infracon.
District councillor Shirley Hull faced off with an irate resident in a heated debate when he insisted the present council was instrumental in the loss of the former council-owned roading contract company.
Mrs Hull admitted she was on council at the start of the process. "There was the realisation there would need to be significant ratepayers' money put into the company and the decision to liquidate was tough," she said.
"We darn well knew it hurt people but someone had to put their big-girl knickers on and make that decision. This was a huge decision, not made lightly."
Councillor Tracey Collis said she'd spent her first six months on council investigating the issues and was pleased the district council had now set up an audit and risk committee.
Allan Benbow, a former Infracon chairman and director on TDC Holdings, said he didn't believe the liquidation was brought about by Infracon's weak balance sheet, but a weak business plan going forward.
"I believe, rather than having a fire sale, Infracon should have been groomed for sale over a two-year period," he said.
Ernie Christison said he thought Infracon should have been given a chance to trade.
"I believe it was savable, but Infracon management got away with blue murder. Tararua ratepayers got shafted."
Mayoral candidate Kay McKenzie came to the district just 15 months ago and told the meeting she had no knowledge of the Infracon situation.
Infracon, owned by Tararua District Council and Central Hawke's Bay District Council, was put into liquidation in August 2014, with 220 staff made redundant and most either retiring or later finding other work.
Millions of dollars owed by the liquidated construction company have been paid and the $1.15 million in leftover cash was paid to the two councils, with TDC receiving $671,850.99 in cash and assets valued at $56,135.76.