Infrastructure, jobs and avocados were among the hot topics at a Northland candidates' meeting in Russell — but fishing was top of mind for the would-be MPs and many in the audience.
The event was split into two sessions at the Duke of Marlborough on Wednesday evening to comply with Covid-19 rules limiting crowds to 100 people. It was supposed to take place in August but was postponed when the virus reared its head again.
It was a good-natured event with gentle jibes between candidates rather than fiery diatribes. There was also some unexpected agreement with, for example, sitting National MP Matt King seeing eye-to-eye with the Greens' Darleen Tana Hoff-Nielsen over the need for cameras on fishing boats.
The other candidates were Brad Flutey (Social Credit), Shane Jones (NZ First), Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) and Mike Shaw (independent).
MC Ross Black man asked all six to speak about infrastructure, employment and — given concerns about declining fish stocks and commercial long-liners — how to ensure sustainable fishing for all in the Bay of Islands.
King said his party believed MPI didn't have the full picture on fish stocks so cameras were needed ''to find out exactly what's being done out there''. He also wanted to see more aquaculture, which was an efficient way of meeting growing demand for protein.
Shaw lamented how hard it was for small-time fishers, for example in the Hokianga, to get a share of quota and make a living; while Tana Hoff-Nielsen backed the call for cameras on boats so New Zealanders could have an informed kōrero.
Flutey said it was time to go back to small-scale fishers who could select their catch and allow the species to continue breeding.
Jones, who invented a new epithet for himself, The Billion Tree Man, said he was 100 per cent behind the fishing industry — but suggested the Bay of Islands be declared a no-take area for commercial fishing.
If that happened, however, recreational and charter fishers would also have to show restraint because some charter operators ''catch fish like I drink rose wine''. Prime said solving the issue would require everyone in the Bay to come together with a common vision.
With time running out all candidates were given just 30 seconds to make their key points.
Shaw said the other candidates had to toe their party lines but as an independent he could follow his conscience and whatever Northlanders saw as the best way forward.
Tana Hoff-Nielsen devoted 18 of her 30 seconds to a waiata then urged the audience to give their party votes to Papatūānuku (the earth mother).
''We have enough, we don't need to keep taking more. We can live with the amazing abundance that Papatūānuku gives us.''
Flutey said Social Credit would always advocate for monetary reform and ''making sure more of your money stays in your pocket''.
The fact he had previously stood for the Outdoor Party was a good thing because it proved ''if a party isn't doing well for me I will leave and go to another party''.
Jones said he wouldn't support the referenda to legalise cannabis or euthanasia, but called on the audience to vote for him if they wanted a moderating influence on either of the big parties.
Prime spoke of her love for Northland and the c-word looming over the election.
''It's a Covid election, whether we like it or not. It's about whether we want to carry on as we have or change teams.''
King spoke of his pride about being Northland MP and asked people to give him a second term.
''I'm a hard worker, I feel like I've earned it. I'm a straight shooter, I'll do the job.''
Other topics covered included concerns for the future of Aupōuri aquifer due to the avocado boom, while Jones' famous ''nephs on the couch'' put in another appearance during a discussion about the need to ensure youth employment in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Act's Mark Cameron was on the original programme but pulled out.