A Meet the Candidates event designed to attract young voters turned out to be the only chance for locals to quiz candidates this election.
Other events, including one planned by Grey Power, were casualties of Covid-19 gathering restrictions.
At Northern Union in Silverdale on October 7, seven candidates had the opportunity to answer questions set by organiser of the event, Caitlin Watson. There was also time for questions from the audience. Caitlin said with young voter turnout low, she was hoping the bar atmosphere would be a friendly and inviting one for youth, encouraging them to participate.
Five of the candidates were locals, while two – The Greens’ Ryan Nicholls and TOP’s Shai Navot – are standing on the North Shore but seeking the party vote.
Most of the big issues this campaign were raised including climate change, the economy, housing affordability and both referendums.
There was also plenty of humour, particularly from Sustainable NZ’s John Davies and National’s Mark Mitchell.
Quick fire rounds of yes/no questions largely divided candidates cleanly in half – the only exception was ‘Does more need to be done to fight climate change’, where all said ‘yes’.
Four of the seven parties – TOP, New Conservative, National and Advance NZ/NZPP said they wanted changes to the public health approach to Covid-19, while The Greens, Labour and Sustainable NZ were happy with the current approach.
Most candidates were in agreement that Government should review the Auckland super city and consider splitting it up, in response to a question from audience member Cr John Watson.
Cannabis legalisation was one of the hottest topics. Mark Mitchell said why would you legalise something when overseas, doing so has caused more harm to health. “I also thought we were moving towards a smoke-free 2025,” he said. TOP’s Shai Navot strongly disagreed, saying the current system is not working with dope widely available and controlled by criminals. “Why would you continue with policy that is clearly not working?” she asked.
There were several tables of young people at the event, including 18-year-old first time voter Helena Vaha, who said she came along open to hear what all candidates had to say.
“My family has their own opinions and I am trying to figure out mine, so that’s why I’m here,” she said.
Later, she said she’d learned quite a bit about the different parties’ values and it had given her a lot to think about before she votes.