ELECTION2020_DIGIBANNER

The East Coast electorate is home to coastal towns such as Whakatāne and Gisborne, as well as a lot of farms.

Stretching from Maketū in the west, right across the whole eastern Bay of Plenty, around the East Cape and down to Gisborne, it's the North Island's largest general electorate.

"I have no idea how any MP covers all the ground they need to cover, when they work for this area," Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer said.

At the last election the electorate had a 79 per cent voter turnout, showing a strong desire to have their voices heard, but they don't all speak with one voice.

"This electorate's been largely National but not exclusively," Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner said.

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"Of course the boundaries have changed too. For a while they stretched more into the west than they do now."

The sitting MP, Anne Tolley, is not running this election. That gives Labour a chance to wrest the seat from National, and they will be fighting for votes over important issues like unemployment.

"Particularly in Kawerau, we're well above the national average," Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell said.

"We've been battling for many, many years to try and create jobs and we've been doing great, until now.

"You take five or so steps forward and take six back, it can be quite frustrating. That's the job though, that's the job we have."

A related issue is poverty and income.

"The median income for Ōpōtiki people is between $20,000 and $21,000 which is lower than the national average," Riesterer said.

"But down the coast it's only sixteen thousand."

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"I think that the Government's last triennium has, through the PGF, given us some great opportunities," Turner said.

"But they created challenges at the same time, one challenge that has come off the back of that is workforce development. I think now after Covid, people needing temporary jobs, even some low-levels of skills just to get through those job opportunities, before they can get back to what they want to do."

Another important issue in the district is housing. According to Statistics New Zealand, almost half of eastern Bay of Plenty residents consider housing to be unaffordable.

"Anybody who's homeless or haven't got a roof over their head in the twenty-first century is unacceptable as far as we're concerned," Campbell said.

"I'm the generation that got help from the Government to get into my first house, we don't do that anymore," Turner said.

"We know for a fact older New Zealanders, who managed to own their own home by the time they retire, are way better off than people who didn't."

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"I believe when it comes to voting, we have to each look at how the parties are positioned on how they'll look after the people," Riesterer said.

"How they will enable the people to do what they want to do. We know what we want to do, we have iwi who know what they want to do - even before settlements. They have a vision for their people, so do we."

Whoever wins here, one thing is for sure. They will clock up a lot of miles driving around this beautiful part of New Zealand. And that's a perk of the job.

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