Absent young miss lively forum

By Alexandra Newlove

1 comment
About 200 people attended a meet-the-candidates event at Onerahi Hall on Wednesday night. Photo / Alexandra Newlove
About 200 people attended a meet-the-candidates event at Onerahi Hall on Wednesday night. Photo / Alexandra Newlove

Where are the young people?

That was the question a hall packed with politically minded Whangarovians scratched their greying heads over.

And the younger contingent who weren't at Onerahi Hall on Wednesday night should be kicking themselves for missing a council candidate forum with enough drama and hilarity to rival a Real Housewives episode.

Mayoral candidate David Blackley (Go-Whangarei) turned the proceedings scandalous just 10 minutes in, giving an inside account of his marriage breakdown, in response to a jibe at a meeting the night before.

"Could you get on to your policy?" gob-smacked meeting chairman John Ross asked.

"Take a look around this hall and ask yourself how many young people are here," he went on. "My point is that young people couldn't care less about these elections."

"There is an unborn baby just down there?" countered Mayor Sheryl Mai, possibly in an attempt to secure her first vote for the 2035 mayoral race.

Finally! One of the fabled youngsters arrived - 35 minutes late and well out of alphabetical order. Mayoral candidate Ash Holwell, 29, announced he had cycled 57km to make the meeting. Everyone applauded.

"There's 18 of us running in Okara, and I think I'm the only one under 45. The average age of Whangarei is 42. If I get in as the only person under 42 that's an enormous job, I have to represent half of Whangarei!" he said.

Okara ward nominee Vince Cocurullo was on hand to reassure him, though.

"Ash, I am 42, so I am that median age."

But not being alive in the 1960s didn't stop Mr Cocurullo launching into an anecdote about the good old days, before Whangarei introduced the dreaded parking meter and the CBD imploded.

Okara incumbent Brian McLachlan talked about how the best way to engage the young is to get out and talk to them in places they are (not community halls, evidently).

Newbie politician Chrissy McLeod was stopped in her tracks when an irate gentleman referred to freedom campers as "scumbags" who defecate wildly, when she suggested that they might be good for the tourism economy.

Other notable moments:

* Jandal-wearing engineer Adam Farrell remarked, "I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing here ... It's all a bit surreal really. I can tap dance, but I don't think I will."

* Matt Keene shut down candidate Wilz Leonard's attempts to dominate question time: "Thanks Wilz. Are there any local people who might have a question before we take one from the Go-Whangarei team?"

* Incumbent Sue Glen defended a perceived allegation she's been at it too long. "I've been elected four times and it's not my fault, I stick a sign up, you tick the box, how can you blame me for that?"

- Northern Advocate

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