Crime, infrastructure and health reform were the biggest topics on the minds of three Tauranga byelection candidates during a debate on Monday.
Held at the Trinity Wharf Hotel by the Tauranga Business Chamber, Act's Cameron Luxton, National's Sam Uffindell and Labour's Jan Tinetti were questioned by a panel of business leaders.
Luxton raised crime as a major issue the city was facing.
He said crime was becoming a "huge problem" in Tauranga and during his campaign, he had spoken with many residents who were now "afraid to venture out on the streets".
"We can't allow this to continue, we have got standards slipping all over the place."
Uffindell said the Government's soft approach was not working and National would "restore the rights of police to chase and pursue criminals".
"We would look at firearm prohibition orders so that they can stop and search gang members, we would go hard on seizing their assets."
Uffindell felt "a bit sketched out" by children "running amok" after he walked down Willow St and said more work needed to be put in to ensure these young people were attending school regularly.
Bus drivers have reported being racially abused and threatened, alongside recent reports of street brawls, vandalism, public underage drinking and assaults on passersby.
A number of incidents have taken place at the Willow St bus interchange in the Tauranga CBD.
While Tinetti believed there needed to be consequences for those who broke the law, she said it was not the long-term solution to tackling crime and gang problems in Tauranga.
She said wraparound support and education were needed to prevent people from turning to crime and getting involved in gangs.
"We need to look at a longer-term solution, an all-of-government approach.
"A system that manoeuvres around the young people, not a system where the young people have to manoeuvre around the system."
On the topic of infrastructure, Tinetti said Tauranga's growth was "incredibly rapid" and ensuring the continuance of planning for this was essential.
She said she now felt a "sense of optimism" around investing in the city's infrastructure.
"The Government is investing in this city like they haven't done before," she said.
"You would have seen the announcements from the local council about the Infrastructure Funds - a $1 billion fund that Tauranga projects have been highlighted at nearly $200 million for."
Luxton said the Act party's policy of a 30-year commissioning agency to fund infrastructure would help bridge the gap between local councils and central government - allowing both to come together in a 30-year partnership.
"It would actually mean things get locked in for a 30-year timeframe," he said.
Candidates were also asked about the Māori Health Authority, which Luxton and Uffindell both opposed, saying it would only add more bureaucracy.
"We don't believe adding more bureaucracy is going to bring better outcomes. We believe investing in the current system will drive better outcomes," said Uffindell.
"Why do we need a dual bureaucracy up the very top when we should allow communities to find solutions for themselves?" Luxton said.
This was rejected by Tinetti who described the model as the "only way" to improve health outcomes for Māori.
"If we want better outcomes we cannot continue to do the same. If we see the world through a Eurocentric lens all the time nothing will change. That is why the Māori Health Authority is essential," Tinetti said.
Other issues discussed on the night included workforce immigration, inflation, Māori imprisonment rates and the Tauranga City Council commission.
Panellists included Jenkins Freshpac Systems Ltd general manager Jamie Lunam, Whare PR founder Bridgette Paton-Tapsell and Cooney Lees Morgan partner Mary Hill.