Hastings mayoral candidate Stuart Perry has been taken to task over his use of the word "vagabond" at the recent Hawke's Bay Today mayoral debate when referring to people living on the city's streets.

Hawke's Bay Today reader Susan McIntyer asked why ratepayers should vote for Mr Perry when he used such a term, and questioned whether he had the people skills to care for Hastings residents.

Mr Perry responded that he did indeed have the people skills for the job.

"Yes, of course I do and I would stress that I am very socially aware and mindful of the hardships that many people experience," he said.

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He noted that he had worked closely with the poor in one of the more impoverished island nations in the Pacific so knew how, in spite of social deprivation, those who had the will could rise above it.

"My reference to the 'vagabonds' was directed at those who use their perceived hardship as a crutch and then spend their days abusing people who are trying to go about their normal daily lives.

"One only has to talk to the retailers and shoppers to get a very clear understanding of the issues the 'vagabonds' cause."

This didn't wash with fellow candidate Waitawhara Tupaea, however, who said he was appalled at such labelling by someone running for public office.

"I have had people in my family who have been treated horribly by people who believe in meritocracy and the idea you have to just get off your bum and go to work.

"That's not how the world works."

He said homelessness had an impact not only on the person who did not have a home, but also the wider community.

"No-one chooses to be homeless and on the streets - as I said at the debate love and kindness are essential for a coherent society built on all the different interests.

"We should not be talking about people as units who are a burden on society - they are just people in the community who need help and our unconditional love and support."

Ms McIntyer also queried Mr Perry about his enthusiasm for tourism as a money earner for the district, recalling one of former New Zealander of the Year and physicist Sir Paul Callaghan's past comments that the more tourism, the poorer you get in terms of income generated from mostly unskilled jobs.

Mr Perry countered that for every person who questioned the value of tourism, there were another 100 who would espouse the merits of the visitors to the economy.

"Last year, $14.5 billion was spent by international visitors to NZ and to get a bigger share of that will be great for the economy, it will create jobs and boost opportunities for all sectors of the community.

"As a physicist Sir Paul was a great scientist and had many interesting social observations, however I would suspect that he would also recognise the huge value in creating employment and raising the standard of living through such means.

"I would be delighted to see a mix of all industries help our economy grow - tourism is but one arm of the opportunities on offer."