There will be a notable absentee when a series of nationwide televised election debates begins on Tuesday.
The Taxpayers’ Union is staging five 90-minute national debates, starting at the Puketapu Hotel. It identified Napier as a bellwether electorate and was attempting to assemble candidates from those parties polling over 5 per cent.
Labour Party candidate Mark Hutchinson has told Hawke’s Bay Today he will not be attending.
The Taxpayers’ Union has teamed with The Working Group political podcast, whose hosts Martyn Bradbury and Damien Grant will oversee the debates.
Hutchinson, though, is not a fan of the Taxpayers’ Union, nor The Working Group.
“It’s a beltway thing. I’m in politics to talk to the people of Napier and focus on local issues,” Hutchinson said.
“But their approach to politics is quite polarising and I’m not interested in their format or their kind of debate. I’m interested in focusing my time on having conversations and listening to the people of Napier and thinking about how to represent them.
“I don’t really think this will have a huge audience in Napier, this kind of thing.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was this week’s guest on The Working Group podcast, which is now going to interview candidates in the Napier, Ilam, Northland, Auckland Central and Tamaki electorates.
“The way we’re looking at the debates is slightly different from some of the debates that are going to be on the television networks and the radio,” Taxpayers’ Union national campaigns manager Callum Purves said.
“Because The Working Group are hosting it’s going to be slightly more fun, a bit more tongue-in-cheek and they’re going to be hosted in pubs and bars so it’s a bit more informal and will hopefully attract a wide range of people.”
Purves says the Taxpayers’ Union-Curia polling suggests Napier will be a very tight, two-horse race between Hutchinson and the National Party’s Katie Nimon.
“It will be interesting to see which party wins and that might tell us something about the overall election,” said Purves.
Nimon says she’s not quite sure what to expect on Tuesday night.
“I prepare for every debate in the same way, no matter who organises it and no matter who’s going to be there. They’re all equally important,” Nimon said.
“Every person who attends has the right to vote and they really want to be informed and it’s our job to give them clear policies and a clear choice to make.”
Purves says, with the Green Party not standing a candidate in Napier, New Zealand First’s Laurie Turnbull and Pawel Milewski of Act will be the other politicians invited.
“What The Working Group does is you’ve got a bit of balance there,” said Purves.
“Martyn is obviously from the left and Damien’s a libertarian on the economic right and I hope that provides confidence to the candidates and the people who come along that, while the Taxpayers’ Union has a clear mission of lower taxes, less waste and more accountability, that the debates should be even-handed and we’ll give all the candidates the opportunity to put across their views.”
The Napier debate will be shown live on Freeview, along with various websites and podcast platforms.
Hamish Bidwell joined Hawke’s Bay Today in 2022 and works out of the Hastings newsroom.