Incumbent Wayne Brown and challenger John Carter offered two clear choices for the Far North mayoralty when they addressed a small public meeting at Taupo Bay on Monday night.
Mr Brown shared the frustration of many Taupo Bay residents over the long drawn-out saga of the plan to build a tennis court on a council reserve, citing that as a classic example of the way in which rules and regulations tended to prevent good ideas becoming reality.
"I would love to beat (those who had opposed the project) and get it up, if that's what the community wants," he said.
"My council has supported this community as much as it can, and will continue to do so, but there are some legal issues that are bigger than the council."
As the mayor of 46 towns he was aware that communities needed facilities, and Far North District Council had provided a number of those during his two terms, despite the fact that the global financial crisis had slowed the economy and the council had resisted the option of borrowing.
The "magnificent" building that was Te Ahu was one facility that would help to bring rural New Zealand the urban recognition deserved.
The reality that rural New Zealand did not always get its fair share was illustrated by the Government's decision to cease funding rural road sealing. Nor did rural districts benefit from the contributions they made to the national economy, for example by way of road user charges that were spent elsewhere.
Mr Brown reiterated his support for a Far North Unitary Authority, saying that if one authority was imposed on the entire region the other districts would be quick to share their debt, not so quick to share their assets.
"I want to make the rules up here," he said. "If we don't, our towns will lose their identity.
"If you believe we should be run from Whangarei, don't vote for me.
"It's the right thing to be on our own. We have community boards, and I think it would be right to have Maori representation.
"In a way this election is a referendum on this issue, and I'm standing on the basis of what I believe in."
He also spoke of his efforts to promote economic development in the Far North. Investors were positively influenced by a council that was "reasonably" efficient and a mayor who displayed a degree of business acumen, while he saw major potential for the processing of products such as logs.
"Northland has lots of opportunities and lots of of unprocessed resources," he said.
"The iwi settlements that are happening now will be good for this district if the iwi do sensible things with them."
He was also involved in a proposal to establish a Far North development bank, still in its embryonic stages but looking promising.
FundamentalsMr Carter said he was contesting the mayoralty on the basis of some fundamental beliefs, including the need to restore respect within and for the council, to restore the philosophy that the council's role was to serve the community, and to achieve financial accountability.
The Kohukohu sewerage scheme, built many years ago and paid for by those using it by way of lump sums, was one example of the council's current lack of accountability, he said.
Residents had been asking, unsuccessfully, for more than 15 months for an explanation as to why their scheme was now in debt, and their pan fees were the second-highest in the district.
He also questioned the veracity of information that had been provided to the public regarding Kerikeri's sewerage options and the plan to pipe water from a bore at Sweetwater to Kaitaia.
Meanwhile, the council was claiming that it had reduced its debt, but was ignoring the cost of that in terms of capital works that had been abandoned, maintenance that had been deferred, government subsidies that had not been claimed and reduced services.
"Sooner or later these will all catch up with us," Mr Carter said.
"There needs to be a balance, and I don't think that has been achieved."
"I will focus on putting local back into local government," he added.
"There are huge opportunities for the council to work with communities more than this council is currently doing. We have also lost our voice in Wellington, which is a huge disadvantage to us, and I can fix that."
His view on the unitary authority issue was that the community had not been given enough information.
The decision would finally be up to voters, but he would fight any Whangarei-focused proposal tooth and nail.
Otherwise his role as mayor would be to ensure that the Far North had the information, including costings, that it needed to decide the most suitable structure.
He was also keen to follow the example of Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams in targeting the training and mentoring of young people to meet local employment needs, and to encourage businesses to establish themselves in the Far North.
That could be achieved by, for example, the waiving of fees and/or rates, although that would have to be discussed with the community.
Mr Carter said he had been reliably informed that 40 businesses that had looked at moving into the Far North over the past four years had "gone away" because of the attitude they had encountered.
"They just found it all too difficult, and we have to change that," he said.
In terms of mining it was important to establish what the Far North possessed in terms of minerals, then to discuss how those resources might be exploited and how exploiting them would benefit the district.