Sept. 3, 2017, 11:42 p.m.
As the four Whangarei candidates entered the debate arena there was no denying the popularity of Greens nominee Ash Holwell as the crowd erupted in cheers.
Shane Jones (NZ First), Shane Reti (National), Tony Savage (Labour) and Ash Holwell (Greens) entered into a robust debate covering off local issues from the ground up including window washers, infrastructure, transport and the rail to port initiatives.
Window washers on SH1 has been a hot topic over recent months in Whangarei and all agreed they would like to see the washers move into safer employment option
The two Shane’s battled fiercely, especially when it came to infrastructure with Shane Jones criticizing National’s progress in the growth of Whangarei.
Jones also made the point that considering Whangarei has been a national stake for so long, the city has been left out of capital investment and little has been done to grow wealth and productivity in the North.
“You never see major investments in Whangarei or the North. This government has taken Whangarei for granted for too long,” said Jones
Shane Reti acknowledged Nationals positive coalition with the Maori party and they work they have done within Maori development and education.
“We value and support Te Reo as a language and we support it all the way through the education system, we see the value in that,” he said.
Ash Holwell drew outbursts from the audience when he stated that the Greens party were the first to announce a policy around compulsory Te Reo in all schools four months ago.
“We will make sure it’s happening here and whoever we are working with in government is doing that as well,” he said.
Shane Jones stated that he was “old-school” and that Te Reo revitalisation also lay within iwi leadership not solely with the crown.
Host Huhana Lyndon was not shy to demand an answer from the candidates and when Ash Holwell was pressed around what he was going do he responded that the region is not using our land well enough.
“What’s happened is our regions have been stripped because the way we have been dealing with our lands have become increasingly efficient so no one needs to be living on them anymore. Our rural communities have had to migrate and it’s about developing those industries so people can be on the land again,” Holwell said.
Audience member Colleen Steedman, 73, of Whangarei said what struck a chord with her the most was the idea that if you have local industry then you have employment and this will stop youth moving overseas.
“Make sure you are enrolled to vote especially the younger ones who are now able to. It is possible for changes to happen because that is what we need,” she said.
I want to see whoever gets in make sure there are changes.”
He mea tuhituhi nā Shannon Pitman