In her address to the 350- strong crowd at tonight's Hastings mayoral debate, current Hastings district councillor Adrienne Pierce spoke on the role of local government, from making decisions on people's needs, to services from parking to "turning on a tap and getting clean water".

Following her was incumbent mayor Lawrence Yule, who shared his vision for Hastings, and the policy's - including reopening the Hawke's bay opera house in two years- he hoped to implement if those gathered chose to give him their continued support.

Local lawyer and "new guy on the block" Guy Wellwood came out with guns blazing, speaking of what he could bring to council, saying he would "work tirelessly to restore the reputation of Hastings that has been tarnished by the current mayor".

As Hawke's Bay Today editor Andrew Austin began putting questions to the candidates, compiled from public suggestions, the issue at the front of everyone's minds was addressed.

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When asked on the Havelock North water contamination and the gastro outbreak, Mr Yule admitted things could have been done better on the part of the council, and reiterated that council would work to get to the bottom of the issue, and ensure it never happened again.

Ms Pierce said the council did not move quickly enough, and when asked on her presence in Havelock North following the outbreak said she had made efforts to ensure the news got out.

Mr Wellwood alleged council had known there were problems with the bores since 2008, and called the contamination incident a very serious problem, and an embarrassment.

Water was the hot topic with further questions on water quality, water bottling, and the Ruataniwha Dam.