Tuesday night's candidates' forum, featuring the three Masterton mayoral candidates and the three regional council candidates, had some solid messages to deliver, and it is a pity there weren't more to hear it.
It was immediately apparent to me that regional council incumbent Gary McPhee has some serious competition in John Dalziell and Andrew Stewart. McPhee didn't help himself much by telling the audience he hadn't expected to be at the forum, telling them he had no speech prepared, and declaring "it's all been said before" before launching into a history lesson. McPhee has some useful credentials as a former Carterton mayor and councillor, but Stewart, who works for the regional council, showed a strong grasp on how things work with a regional authority. Dalziell, with 40 years of farming and experience in strategic rural activities, is also a strong contender. His comment on a tighter rein on expenditure and rates would be welcome news to any ratepayer.
Gary Caffell went down the route of what the people want and need, and called for greater accountability for councillors in terms of portfolios and responsibilities.
Both will hit a sweet spot with residents. Caffell, possibly the best speaker of the evening in terms of measured delivery, concentrated on what he believed - and that certainly wasn't the unitary authority. He maintained that an increase in rates was unaffordable to those on the medium wage.
Incumbent mayor Garry Daniell played the legacy card, pointing out his own long service since he started in 1989 as a councillor. It's a pretty decent card to play; adding up the town square, motorplex, Castlepoint sea wall and Homebush sewage works, the current council have a lot to be proud of.
Lyn Patterson has campaigned on passion and a declaration of doing the best for Masterton's residents, and she continued those messages that evening. Bolstering Masterton's economy and maintaining good transport links were "biggies" for her, including more collaboration with Masterton's community trusts.
My thoughts are that we have some excellent and reassuring depth in the three regional council candidates. As far as the mayoral race is concerned, it will be interesting to see if Daniell's reasonably successful terms in office are keeping voters happy, or whether there's hardship to prompt a change.