Labour candidate Mark Hutchinson will attend tonight’s televised Napier electorate debate.
Hutchinson, who became the Labour nominee when incumbent Stuart Nash opted to retire, originally said he would not participate in The Working Group and Taxpayers’ Union debate at The Puketapu Hotel.
He cited it as “a beltway thing” organised by people whose views did not align with his.
The Working Group podcast and Taxpayers’ Union have previously staged Auckland mayoralty and Hamilton West byelection debates and are now taking the format to five bellwether seats across the country.
Tonight at The Puketapu marks the first stop on that tour and Hutchinson will join National candidate Katie Nimon, Laurie Turnbull of New Zealand First and Act’s Pawel Milewski onstage with podcast hosts Martyn Bradbury and Damien Grant.
“Debate organisers reached out to me and gave assurances that the Taxpayers’ Union had no role in shaping the format or questions,” Hutchinson said.
“I was satisfied by those assurances and will go along tonight to make the case for Labour and highlight the contrast between our vision for New Zealand and that being offered by National, Act and New Zealand First.”
He says he had originally decided not to attend as a “rejection” of the union’s “polarising” political tactics.
Taxpayers’ Union national campaign manager Callum Purves said his organisation would provide Bradbury with some kind of structure to follow.
“But ultimately he’ll decide what he asks,” Purves said.
The Taxpayers’ Union has engaged polling company Curia, whose research indicates Napier will be one of the seats that potentially decides the outcome of October’s General Election.
Curia completed polling of the Napier electorate on Sunday, with the results to be released during tonight’s broadcast.
The 90-minute debate will be shown live on Freeview, as well as various websites and podcast platforms.