One candidate admitted consulting the Prime Minister before getting a haircut. Another confessed he wouldn't be voting for himself. There was finger-pointing and allegations of unfair credit-taking, but there were also a range of ideas on how to make the region better.

Seven Napier and Tukituki candidates from four parties squared off yesterday in a Radio Kidnappers political debate chaired by Hawke's Bay Today editor Andrew Austin.

National's Napier candidate, Wayne Walford, said it was not true he had been told by the party's hierarchy to cut off his pony tail.

"I had a conversation directly with the Prime Minister and asked him if it was an issue, and he told me it was not an issue. He's got people who wear turbans, have got beards, do all sorts of different things so it was not an issue for him at all," Mr Walford said.


"But what I've found is that people in Napier were struggling to communicate with me with a pony tail. They felt an old sense of what a man should look like so we have accommodated that to help with the communication."

"It's because they're conservative," said Tukituki Conservative candidate Stephen Jenkinson.

The more important issue of economic development in Hawke's Bay was a main focus of the debate, with the candidates weighing in on how they would create jobs and encourage young people to stay in the region.

Mr Walford said the region needed a single, united growth strategy.

There's too much interference coming out of Wellington.
Stephen Jenkinson, Tukituki Conservative candidate

"We also need to make sure that we're creating opportunities for jobs for the future - we need to maybe create a centre of excellence for innovation, the sort of things that will help bring our families back and have really good growth based on technology."

Labour's Napier candidate, Stuart Nash, said he would be working hard to ensure as much of a $200 million regional economic development fund promised by his party headed to Hawke's Bay.

Conservative Party Napier candidate Garth Mcvicar said the region had huge opportunities to grow employment in the agriculture sector and if government was tough on law and order it would create a "safe environment" that people would attract people.

Tukituki MP Craig Foss said continuing the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband would improve growth.

"You're seeing examples of that - 200 new jobs starting with Kiwibank [opening a new call centre] right here in the middle of Hasting."

Labour's Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorck, challenged Mr Foss on that point, saying the Unison fibre broadband network Kiwibank was connecting to had nothing to do with the UFB network the Government was funding.

Mr Foss responded that UFB was enabling innovators to base themselves in the region and Kiwibank were using it as part of their network.

Tukituki Green candidate Chris Perley said maintaining a clean, welcoming environment in the Bay would help attract people and jobs to the region. "We have to go for high-tech, high-wage economies which are local and that means keeping this place very special."

Dr Jenkinson said red tape associated with the Resource Management Act was an impediment to business in Hawke's Bay. "There's too much interference coming out of Wellington. The Wellington bureaucracy just slows things down."

Asked what they would do if they did not get elected to Parliament, the candidates fell into two camps: Those who said they hadn't given the question any thought and those who admitted they weren't going to win a seat.

"We're going to have a beer or two on election night and if it works out well, then fantastic. If it doesn't then I'll consider options," Mr Nash said.

Mr Perley and Dr Jenkinson both said their campaigns were about winning party votes for their respective parties and they weren't in the campaign to win electorate seats.

Mr Perley suggested he wouldn't even vote for himself.