North Taranaki Midweek

Conspiracy, water and legislatio­n saturation’ on TRC hopefuls’ minds


Legislatio­n saturation, the growing control of central government, and even a few conspiracy theories were on the minds of Taranaki Regional Council hopefuls at a meet the candidates evening.

The Federated Farmers-run question and answer event was held at the Stratford War Memorial Centre on Thursday and attracted about 45 people – just over double the 19 candidates, out of 24 in this month’s election – who showed up.

Several candidates focused on the environmen­t, including Tama Blackburn, activist Chris Wilkes – fresh off the Mt Messenger Bypass protest – councillor Elvisa Van Der Leden, and activist Urs Signer.

Signer told the room, predominan­tly farmers, that perhaps they were ‘‘not so different’’. Most farmers belong to a co-operative and a federation – both ‘‘pretty leftie’’ terms, he said, and Signer’s great-grandfathe­r had been a dairy farmer with four cows in the Swiss Alps.

Signer spoke passionate­ly on the benefits of regenerati­ve agricultur­e – diversifyi­ng crops and retiring farmland into native forests for carbon farming.

The rural sector also had a strong voice through councillor­s Mike Davey and Donald McIntyre, Federated Farmers’ Donna Cram, and farmer Deborah Clough.

Davey said ‘‘farming is the biggest ballgame in this town’’ and took aim at the ‘‘tsunami of regulation coming out of Wellington’’.

That same pushback against excess regulation was a common thread, with candidate Lyall Field describing it as ‘‘legislatio­n saturation’’.

The meeting even had a dose of conspiracy theory.

South ward candidate Alan Murray’s speech railed against everything from chemtrails to 5G towers to the threat of a one-world government.

Sitting councillor and current regional transport committee chairperso­n Matthew McDonald acknowledg­ed the healthy competitio­n for the single Stratford seat.

McDonald is being challenged by former South Taranaki mayor Mary Bourke, Stratford District deputy mayor Alan Jamieson and Taranaki Electricit­y Trust board member Andrew Wood.

Bourke said she couldn’t stand by as she witnessed the diminishin­g relevance of local government, and the ‘‘death by a thousand cuts’’ to local communitie­s, while Jamieson talked about his abilities to work with district councils around the region in the face of upcoming changes from central government.

Previously elected councillor­s Craig Williamson, Neil Walker and Charlotte Littlewood were eloquent.

Williamson spoke of the success of the region’s riparian planting scheme, Walker tackled the urban-rural divide and concentrat­ion of ‘‘everything’’ in Wellington, while Littlewood spoke about how the Taranaki Regional Council had kept rates in line with inflation.

Long-time barrister Susan Hughes was asked whether the council had met the provisions of the Local Government Official Informatio­n and Meetings Act 1987.

The council \is involved in the Chief Ombudsman’s ‘‘underminin­g local democracy’’ investigat­ion, which is looking at whether councils are using workshops to discuss issues away from the public.

Hughes, who is standing in the New Plymouth constituen­cy, said she imagined the council was doing its best.

‘‘If there are lessons to be learned, then learn the lessons and move on.’’

Rusty Kane devoted a portion of his speech to reminding those gathered to ‘‘tick’’ rather than number their regional council voting papers – a timely reminder as the voting deadline of midday, October 8 draws near.

 ?? ELIJAH HILL/STUFF ?? A candidates meeting was organised by Taranaki Federated Farmers at Stratford War Memorial Centre and attended by about 45 people.
ELIJAH HILL/STUFF A candidates meeting was organised by Taranaki Federated Farmers at Stratford War Memorial Centre and attended by about 45 people.

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