Little fire at meet the candidates event
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’’.