Each year, more than 13 million overseas visitors arrive at Auckland Airport.

From Mangere, they set out on their journeys around the country, either heading north towards Auckland City or south through Manukau.

The number is set to increase to 24 million passengers by 2025, which should lead to a big boost in income from the airport for the whole region - as long as the new Auckland Council does not sell its airport shares.

Alf Filipaina, one of the front-runners for one of the Manukau ward's two council seats, says Manukau City Council has been able to use its dividends from its airport shares to keep rates down.

"In previous years, we've had $1 million to $2 million off our rates bill."

The Manukau councillor wants to ensure the city's airport shares are not sold.

Mr Filipaina acknowledges that there will be more people than just Manukau ward councillors deciding the best direction for the region.

"You can't go in and say that rates have to stay low because you are two people of 20 councillors, plus the mayor."

Mr Filipaina and fellow Manukau councillor Efu Koka announced their Labour ticket candidacy in May, getting a head-start over most of the contenders to become front runners in the field of 12 contenders.

Mr Filipaina is well known as a police officer in Manukau, and while he is not on the front line any more, he has connections all over town as well through his work as a Manukau councillor.

Efu Koka is a prominent community figure around Otara, and while only a first-term councillor, he has been vocal about cleaning up Manukau's streets and making suburbs safer.

The two councillors are campaigning in a Labour stronghold, which could explain why Citizens & Ratepayers has only one candidate for this seat - Bob Wichman, another Manukau councillor.

A new ticket called ABC - A Better Choice was launched to cater for the Pacific Island community. Candidates Rosie Brown and Salote Lilo want to ensure the Pacific voice is not lost in regional discussions.

The rest of the nominations are independents or linked to local tickets, the strongest contenders being Manukau Deputy Mayor Gary Troup and former National Party MP Arthur Anae.

The major players are all talking about regional issues, and in Manukau the biggest concerns are rates and water charges.

Manukau City has some of the lowest charges in the region, and many lower-income families will notice any increases.

The new ward stretches from Otahuhu in the north to the Manukau CBD in the south, taking in Papatoetoe, Otara, Mangere and part of East Tamaki.

It is one of Auckland's more diverse communities - more than 50 per cent of the 140,000 residents are from the Pacific Islands, and 23,000 are Maori.

About 30,000 residents are European, and nearly 25,000 are Asian.

One of the major considerations for any new council will be to make sure all ethnic groups get the representation they need.

The ward's median income was only $20,327 at the last Census.

Mr Troup sees the inclusion in the ward of Otahuhu - it is part of Auckland City at present - as a big opportunity to stimulate economic growth for Auckland.

"It's accessible from a transport point of view, it's not far from Penrose and there is a significant business opportunity since the closure of the freezing works some years ago.

"We've got to look after the lower socio-economic population as best as we can, across the whole region."

As well as being concerned about rates, residents are worried about potential fees to use swimming pools, which are currently free in Manukau.

Most of the contenders want to retain free access to pools, and even expand it across the region, to try to keep youth schemes such as Sir John Walker's Field of Dreams running.

Mr Wichman, who jokes that he is known as "Councillor Scrooge", supports keeping the pools free but says the money for their maintenance has to come from somewhere.

He is willing to spend on core infrastructure such as transport because Manukau is expanding. "People are sick and tired of being stuck in traffic."

Whatever the outcome, the biggest battle all of the candidates face is encouraging residents to vote.

At the last Manukau City elections, in 2007, only 39 per cent of eligible voters took part, and while the ward boundaries have changed, it will still be a struggle to get constituents to tick the boxes.

Battle of the boards
Mangere-Otahuhu:

Otahuhu has long been the poor cousin in Auckland City's suburban family.

In recent years a swimming pool development, one the community had wanted for over a decade, was canned, and library upgrades were postponed.

Residents will be hoping that their new local board, which will also include Mangere, will be able to deliver results that the last council could not.

Five members of the current Mangere Community Board are standing for re-election, and so is one member of Auckland City's Tamaki Community Board.

The Labour ticket has seven people contesting the seven seats, the most of any group, and the strongest chance.

Mangere Community Board chair Leau Peter Skelton, who is on the Labour ticket, is standing alongside Christine O'Brien, a Tamaki Community Board member who lives in Otahuhu. Three Citizens & Ratepayers candidates are standing, as well as Sylvia Taylor, a Manukau councillor who is also competing for a ward seat.

She is standing on a ticket with her husband, Ken Taylor, a Mangere Community Board member.

Otara-Papatoetoe:

Three candidates from Otara and four from Papatoetoe will make up the combined local board, and 19 people are hoping to win a seat.

The nominations are made up of independents, some small local tickets and a few Labour members.

The big issues continue to be the clean-up of Otara lake, an issue that both the Manukau City Council and Auckland Regional Council do not want to take responsibility for.

In Papatoetoe, street prostitution continues to be of concern.

The most familiar names are candidates already on the community boards. From Papatoetoe there is board chairman Stephen Grey and Ray Strong. In Otara are board chairman Tunumafono Ava Fa'amoe, Mary Gush and Louisa Lavakula, as well as community stalwart Jim Sinclair.

Facts & Figures
Ethnicity: European 22.4 per cent, Maori 17.6 per cent, Pacific 51.8 per cent, Asian 18.4 per cent
Born overseas: 42.6 per cent
Median income (residents aged 15 and over): $20,327

Manukau Ward Candidates
Arthur Anae - Independent
Rosie Brown - A Better Choice
Alf Filipaina - Labour
Efu Koka - Labour
Salote Lilo - A Better Choice
Brent Morrissey - Independent
Sylvia Taylor - Residents and Ratepayers
Lupe Tofilau Eti Alesana-Vaofanua - Independent
Gary Troup - Independent
Annalucia Vermunt - Communist League
Bob Wichman - Citizens and Ratepayers

The Series
Yesterday: Albany
Today: Manukau
Tomorrow: Whau
Thursday: Franklin
Friday: Waitakere