The cut and thrust of the political debate can make or break a candidate's chances.

And the three candidates standing for Whangārei's mayoralty saw their fortunes fluctuate at the Northern Advocate's Meet The Mayoral Candidates event at Forum North on Monday.

Mayoral candidates Sheryl Mai, Tony Savage and Alex Wright faced a raft of questions from Advocate readers, the business community and the district's youth at the debate, which saw around 400 voters descend on Forum North for the debate.

And it would appear, at least from the Northern Advocate's unscientific straw poll after the event, that their performances are having an influence on how people intend to vote.

A crowd of around 400 attended the Northern Advocate Meet The Mayoral Candidates debate on Monday night.
A crowd of around 400 attended the Northern Advocate Meet The Mayoral Candidates debate on Monday night.

The straw poll asked people who they had intended to vote for, or if they were undecided, before the debate, then who they would vote for after the event?

Of the 177 who filled out the poll 79, or 45 per cent, said they came to the meeting intending to vote for Mai; 22 (13 per cent) said they would vote for Savage and 11 (6 per cent) said they would vote for Wright, while 65 (36 per cent) were undecided.

However, after the meeting 87 said they would vote for Savage (49 per cent); 53 for Mai (30 per cent) and 12 for Wright (7 per cent), while 25 (14 per cent) were still undecided.

But, we must point out again, the poll was unscientific and captured only the thoughts of some of those who attended the meeting.

The candidates answered some of the same questions but also had ones to answer individually.

Meet the Whangarei mayoral candidates at Forum North

The Chamber of Commerce asked that with a number of NZ towns committed to major redevelopment of their CBDs, aside from beautification, how will council engage with the more commercial development needs of our CBD?

Savage said he would engage with the business community, with many finding the council too hard to deal with as it seemed to have a can't-do rather than can-do attitude. He said he would turn that around.

He said there was a lack of development and he would also like to see council work with developers to find out what they needed to progress - to get a practical process in place to get business growth.


Wright said she there needed to be planning changes to encourage more growth and more inner city living. She said people would not come into town to shop if there were too many empty shops.

Mai said retail had changed and other cities around the country were experiencing CBD issues. She would like to get more people living in the central city. Mai said if rates were reduced for CBD shopowners others would have to pay it across the district.

The questions that threw all three candidates were from the Whangārei Youth Centre, including about how they would make Whangārei safe for youth.

Savage said youth needed to have a political voice and youth wanted to take action now, not wait. He said council needed to change and start getting young people involved.

Mai was concerned that young people do not feel safe here and suggested possibly trying a system of safe shops or businesses where young people could go and know they would be safe.

Wright said she would talk to the police and if there was an issue around youth safety and work with them for a solution.