If public interest in the upcoming Whanganui District Council election is looking for a guide then the first Wanganui Chronicle meet the candidates' forum last night points to a healthy contest.

The full house sign was up when 13 of the 33 council hopefuls took the stage at the War Memorial Centre's concert chamber.

Local body election meetings can be dour affairs but last night suggests this time around things could be different.

The audience braved a cold night but they were warm and generous in their response after each of the candidates was given four minutes to outline their policies and then respond to questions posed by Chronicle readers. Some in the audience even brought their knitting.

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Generally the candidates expressed similar views on the "issues" - growing the population, revitalising the economy, being inclusive at the council table. But they also all shared another common theme - a preparedness to stand up and be counted as candidates for the 12 seats at the council table.

After last night, for those 13 at least, they have another 30 days to continue their campaigning until election day, October 8.

The candidates last night included Alan Abbott, Philippa Baker-Hogan, Steve Baron, David Bennett, Josh Chandulal-Mackay, Helen Craig, Brian Doughty, Jenny Duncan, Kiritahi Firmin, Dave Hill, Kate Joblin, David Matthews and Tony Mudgway.

Best answer on the night? It came from Alan Abbott. Asked if he believed there were too many councillors and too many council staff, he was brief and to the point: "Yes and yes." His brevity earned applause.

The second candidates' meeting in on tonight at the same venue starting at 6.30pm. OIf you want a seat, be early.

* Fully coverage of the meeting will appear in tomorrow's Chronicle.