With election day looming, the Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers Association this week invited each candidate from the Bay of Plenty electorate to address its members.
With scratches from the Greens and NZ First, each candidate started with an introduction from each candidate.
"After Mr Muller stepped down from the leadership of the National Party I was unable to continue supporting them," One Party candidate Sharon Devery said.
"I prayed for a sign from God for a party that had morals aligned with mine to come into my world."
Margaret Colmore, New Conservative candidate, said, "About two years ago I became really concerned about the direction our country's being taken down… schools teaching young children from the age of 5 about gender ideology… that they might be in the wrong body and that maybe we should explore that…"
Labour list MP Angie-Warren Clarke told the audience about her government's infrastructure spending.
"$960 million into roads, $60m to save the underpass at Bayfair, $30m into the mental health unit rebuild, $100m into a justice precinct, $18m into the Rangiuru interchange, $2.8m into surf lifesaving rescue centre and $800,000 into our own Pāpāmoa lifesaving club."
Todd Muller spoke about National's plan for economic recovery.
"We are unapologetic that it's anchored in supporting small business because there are 600,000 of them and we will climb ourselves back out of the hole that in my view this government has helped facilitate," he said.
Some candidates appealed directly to the audience for their vote.
"Todd and Angie are both great MPs and they've worked hard for the Bay of Plenty, however they both get the job through their list placement whether you vote for them or not," TOP candidate Chris Jenkins said.
"So I would suggest considering myself or the other smaller party candidates because you have a vote to spare here."
Angela Moncur, Advance NZ candidate, said she was concerned about "the controlling overreach of the local government", while Act candidate Bruce Carley spoke about hate speech laws.
"Hate speech is something that I've said that you disagree with, or something you've said that I disagree with. If that's construed as hate then no one will ever be able to say anything without fear of not just offending somebody but being prosecuted for it," he said.
With everybody in the room acquainted, it was time to answer questions sent in by the ratepayers. These included questions about honouring Treaty settlements, financial assistance for local councils and compulsory fruit picking for healthy people on benefits.
But the question that got the biggest reaction from the room focused on the recent behaviour of local councillors and what can be done about it.
"Our council's still making good decisions around the table but it's their behaviour outside of the council that's the issue," Clarke said.
Muller went one step further. "I can possibly guess what sits behind this question, Pāpāmoa. Look, the National Party has used the power that sits in the Local Government Act before and sacked Canterbury Regional Council about a decade ago and replaced it with commissioners. The power's there to do it.
"Talking frankly with you, because I sense that's what you want me to get at with this question, I know all the councillors personally and they're awesome people, there's a couple in the room. But I think this council's standing perilously close to that point."
The former National Party leader offered some advice for Tauranga's elected members.
"The way I look at it is they've just got to get on with it and get on with each other. I don't share beers on Friday night with Simon Bridges that often, our families don't go holidaying together but we've got to work together – that's our job."
Former Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless, who was in the audience, didn't think a government would go as far as to sack Tauranga Council so long as the decisions are still being made.
"I think it's a major step for a government to sack a democratically elected council, so whether you love the council or dislike it, provided they can still do most of the operational things, unfortunately you have to put up with the other terrible misbehaviour that goes on that you wouldn't put up with in your own home," he said.
On the whole, the meeting was more civil than previous Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers meetings, without any sign of the fireworks faced recently by Mayor Tenby Powell.
But there's no doubt that Pāpāmoa residents are just as engaged in these government elections as they are in local body politics.
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