Lit­tle fire at meet the can­di­dates event

The Timaru Herald - - News - Matthew Lit­tle­wood matthew.lit­tle­wood@stuff.co.nz

There was much broad agree­ment at a mostly sub­dued meet the Waitaki can­di­dates event at Pleas­ant Point.

About 20 peo­ple at­tended the Thurs­day evening event hosted by South Can­ter­bury Fed­er­ated Farm­ers and the South Can­ter­bury Cham­ber of Com­merce, with can­di­dates from New Con­ser­va­tive (Troy Al­lan), Na­tional (Jac­qui Dean, the in­cum­bent MP), ACT (Sean

Beamish), and NZ First (An­thony Oder­ing).

Ger­rie Ligten­berg, the Green Party’s Ran­gi­tata can­di­date, stood in for Sampsa Ki­uru, while Labour’s can­di­date Liam Wairepo was also ab­sent.

About the only time the meet­ing moved above sub­dued was when the is­sue of free speech was dis­cussed by Al­lan, who called Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern a ‘‘com­mu­nist’’ dur­ing his open­ing ad­dress.

He said ‘‘this sep­a­ratism that has bandied about be­cause peo­ple are be­ing so bloody of­fended has got to stop’’. ‘‘If these guys carry on then we’re in trou­ble be­cause free speech is the first thing to go in any democ­racy,’’ Al­lan said.

Ligten­berg, re­spond­ing to a com­plaint from an au­di­ence mem­ber that he couldn’t get his views on cli­mate change on Stuff, said free speech ex­isted, but peo­ple ‘‘were not al­lowed to put out dis­in­for­ma­tion’’ on­line.

Al­lan re­sponded by telling Ligten­berg to ‘‘grow up’’.

Most of the can­di­dates ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the Govern­ment’s fresh­wa­ter re­forms. ‘‘There’s a nar­ra­tive within the me­dia that you farm­ers are some­how ecoter­ror­ists,’’ Beamish said. ‘‘Farm­ers are the only in­dus­try in New Zealand who have a built-in in­cen­tive to look af­ter the en­vi­ron­ment. We’ve got to get rid of a lot of the non­sense in the fresh­wa­ter re­forms.’’ Dean also ap­pealed to the au­di­ence of mostly farm­ers, call­ing farm­ing ‘‘the back­bone of the econ­omy’’.

‘‘What we have now is a Govern­ment and a regime that is pil­ing on new rules and reg­u­la­tions, where the an­swer in our view is to work with the farm­ing sec­tor.

‘‘You are the peo­ple who know how to do things. We will work with you as true part­ners.’’

Oder­ing said NZ First would act as a ‘‘mod­er­at­ing’’ force be­tween the ex­tremes of left and right.

Ligten­berg said most farm­ers were al­ready on the right path of re­gen­er­a­tion, and the Green Party has al­ways sup­ported sus­tain­able farm­ing.

How­ever, she said the fresh­wa­ter re­forms, which set a lot of base­line tar­gets with the am­bi­tion of im­prov­ing the qual­ity of the coun­try’s rivers, lakes and streams within a gen­er­a­tion, were needed not only for en­vi­ron­men­tal health but also hu­man health.

There were too many con­tam­i­nated rivers, Ligten­berg said.

Al­lan said the re­forms were a ‘‘load of crock’’ and that re­quir­ing a re­source con­sent to win­ter graze was ‘‘bu­reau­cratic non­sense’’.

Al­lan said New Con­ser­va­tive Party would pro­vide in­cen­tives for farm­ers to in­vest in re­search and devel­op­ment, much like the for­mer Depart­ment of Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search used to do so.

The is­sue of road­ing was also dis­cussed, with most can­di­dates pledg­ing bet­ter fund­ing sys­tems, es­pe­cially for ru­ral roads.

Beamish said he wasn’t sure why the roads were so bad.

‘‘I can only as­sume it is bu­reau­cracy and non­sense at the cen­tral govern­ment level . . . these things can be eas­ily ad­dressed by ... un­der­stand­ing the prob­lem,’’ he said.

Dean said she would fight for the re­ten­tion of the South Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Health Board, call­ing it ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’ and ‘‘the most won­der­fully re­spon­sive of all DHBs’’.

Troy Al­lan

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