It was a full house at St John's Anglican Church on Wednesday evening for the first of two meet-the-candidates sessions in Dannevirke.

The large crowd listened carefully and were well-informed by the 22 candidates vying for seats in the upcoming local body elections.

Each of the Tararua mayoral candidates spoke for five minutes and those for the Tararua District Council's Northern Ward, Dannevirke Community Board, Horizons Regional Council and Mid-Central District Health Board for three.

The mayoral candidates spoke on their vision for Tararua.

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Incumbent mayor Tracey Collis says she will lead workshops in all communities to find out what people value, what the priorities are and how to feed these into planning for a greater Tararua.

James Harold wants to ensure the council makes the right decisions and sets out a clear path to regional success.

Mitch McHardy sees roading as one of the biggest problems facing the district. He believes he can bring a unique perspective to council.

Major issues to emerge from the Northern Ward candidates included:

• Multiple concerns about the state of rural roads, particularly Route 52 and the need to manage them with a railway hub being investigated;

• The threat to rural communities from the planting of pines on productive farmland;

• The challenges from central government relating to new legislation on water supplies and river protection;

• The opportunities to make the best of the new Manawatu-Tararua highway;

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• Managing the limited rates intake to ensure best use for all Tararua;

• Ensuring there is enough housing, particularly for Tararua's ageing population;

• The need for a multi-sport complex in Dannevirke;

• Economic development.

The four incumbent members of the Dannevirke Community Board outlined their contributions over the past term and expressed a wish to continue unfinished work supporting local initiatives. The fifth candidate, Malia Hema, was not able to attend the meeting.

Each of the three candidates for the Horizons Regional Council spoke of their credentials which would make them a worthy Tararua voice when it came to issues affecting the district and the region, issues such as the One Plan and river management.

Dorothy Lock spoke as Tararua's only candidate for the Mid-Central District Health Board, saying a vote of one in the single transferable voting system would give her a chance if elected to strongly push for better health services in the Tararua.

The second meet-the-candidates session will be held at The Hub on Wednesday at 1.30pm.