Candidates front up to gritty issues

By Victoria White

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From the Te Mata Mushroom Farm to Ruataniwha Dam to free parking - a fiery debate raged last night as the issues facing Hastings were addressed by the three candidates vying to be its mayor.

Current Hastings District councillor Adrienne Pierce, incumbent Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and local lawyer Guy Wellwood squared off during the 2016 Hastings Mayoral debate, moderated by Hawke's Bay Today editor Andrew Austin and held at Karamu High School.

Although water was the hot topic, questions submitted by the 350-plus crowd covered a range of issues.

WATER

When queried on the recent gastro outbreak, Mr Yule admitted things could have been done better on the part of the council, and reiterated they would work to get to the bottom of the issue.

Ms Pierce said the council did not move quickly enough. She was disappointed with the communication from the council.

An allegation that the council had known about problems with the bores since 2008 came from Mr Wellwood, "and this current mayor said why should we spend millions fixing up these bores when they've gone well for years"?

Discussion on freshwater being given away free to China drew murmurs from the crowd.

Mr Yule said although it was not just a district council matter, "I don't think that we can expect to continue to give away our precious water free without any community benefit other than jobs."

Mr Wellwood agreed with the incumbent mayor, adding that collectively Hawke's Bay councils needed to work on some way of determining what a royalty could be.

Ms Pierce stated no further consents should be given until "we get a grip on this thing".

Whether she supported the proposed Ruataniwha Dam was "a tough one" for Ms Pierce, who stated, as a business owner, "the jury was still out".

Applause followed Mr Wellwood's upfront declaration of his support, but not Mr Yule's.

Mr Wellwood said the water could enhance production, adding sheep and crops would be its best use, but labelled the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's process as "a bit of a fiasco".

The mayor agreed, adding "on balance if the farmers want to put their cash in and invest for 35 years and we can find an investor, who am I to say we shouldn't do it"?

Lawrence Yule speaking at the Mayoral Debate last night. Photo / Duncan Brown
Lawrence Yule speaking at the Mayoral Debate last night. Photo / Duncan Brown

COMMERCIAL

The council, and use of its finances were also discussed, starting with whether the council should be hosting the Horse of the Year event considering the criticism surrounding it earlier this year.

The event and its benefits were praised by the candidates.

However, Mr Wellwood said there could be work to be done in regards to its management, and Ms Pierce queried whether the council, or councillors, should be as deeply involved in commercial activities.

Mr Yule appeared to be the only one completely confident about wanting to restore the Hawke's Bay Opera House, with Ms Pierce stating that although "it's going to be saved, that's what's been decided", the money to do so could have been used for other opportunities.

Although Mr Wellwood supported the building's restoration, he did not support millions being spent on it.

COMMUNITY ISSUES

Other Havelock North issues, such as the controversial Kura Kaupapa and Te Mata Mushroom Farm were addressed. Ms Pierce stated her support of the farm, drawing murmurs of support from the crowd by adding "we took the houses to their doorstep to a degree".

Mr Wellwood's proposal of moving the farm's composting operation to another site seemed to have the crowd's support, until Mr Yule stated that was expected to cost up to $10 million. When asked what the major needs of Hastings were, job creation and boosting the district's economy were at the top of the list for Ms Pierce.

For Mr Yule, making the district competitive would ensure it could receive the right resources, retain people in the area and create the jobs and income residents needed.

Amongst other things Mr Wellwood said, "A new mayor".

Lawyer Guy Wellwood address the crowd during the Mayoral Debate, Councillor Adrienne Pierce and Mayor Lawrence Yule in the background. Photo / Duncan Brown
Lawyer Guy Wellwood address the crowd during the Mayoral Debate, Councillor Adrienne Pierce and Mayor Lawrence Yule in the background. Photo / Duncan Brown

PERSONAL

As well as their stance on issues facing Hastings, personal questions about the candidates, including their political party affiliations, and places of residence, were answered.

Ms Pierce stood as a National Party candidate, Mr Yule was an electorate chairman for National, and "political animal" Mr Wellwood had been associated with the National, Labour and ACT parties. Mr Yule was the only candidate to live outside the Hastings district.

The candidates were asked if they intended to serve the full three-year term as mayor, if elected.

Ms Pierce hoped to serve two terms as a fulltime mayor, and this would be Mr Yule's last term - which he would fulfil as a fulltime mayor, finishing as president of Local Government New Zealand in July 2017.

Councillor Adrienne Pierce took to the stage during the Mayoral Debate.
Councillor Adrienne Pierce took to the stage during the Mayoral Debate.

With the mayoralty as his "one and only job", Mr Wellwood intended to serve two terms, "and would I last the three years, obviously health would be an issue and I wouldn't feel any obligation to carry on if my health was not right.

"The other reason I might step down before three years is up is if I was asked to be the Governor-General."

Although there was contention about the fact Mr Yule lived in Napier, he said he had moved into his wife's family home after they got married, saying "we're happy together, and I'm happy to live in Napier".

He added it was now a shorter commute than when he lived in rural Hastings. It appeared "it's ok if I lived at Whirinaki, or Eskdale, but it's not ok if I live in Napier and I think that's rubbish frankly".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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