Debates begin for elections

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Cowley says now’s the time to put candidates into the spotlight and dig beneath the campaign slogans. Photo: John Borren.

Tauranga’s local body election campaigns are beginning with the first Tauranga mayoral debate set for next Wednesday, June 26, from 5pm-7pm.

Tauranga’s Chamber of Commerce is hosting its own mayoral debate for chamber members at the University of Waikato’s Tauranga Campus – and the event will be livestreamed for the public to tune in.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Cowley, who is moderating the event, says four candidates were chosen for the event by the chamber surveying members in May to vote for the top candidates they wanted to hear from.

The survey winners are former Tauranga City Council Mayor Greg Brownless; Olympic champion rower Mahe Drysdale; award-winning musician Ria Hall; and former Tauranga City Council Deputy Mayor Tina Salisbury.

Matt says the candidates will be grilled on Tauranga City’s key issues and given some tough questions to answer from chamber members. “It’s time we put the candidates into the spotlight and dig beneath the campaign slogans to find out where they stand on key issues.”

“We’re looking forward to getting them into a room and putting some tough questions to them before the voting begins.”

Tauranga City Council elections are being conducted by postal vote and voter packs will be mailed out from June 29. Matt says this event is an opportunity “to test some of the potential leaders”.

“There will be some tough questions to see whether they know their subject matter and whether they act in a mayoral manner.”

To keep the debate fair Matt says the style will be conversational “and we’ll allow the candidates to ask questions of other candidates”.

“My job as MC is to give equal airtime [to each candidate] and make sure that they’re faced the same level of scrutiny. At the very end we’ll give them each three minutes each too cover off anything else they want to say.”

Chamber members will be able to submit questions prior to the event. “We have a QR code and they can submit [questions] online”.

Matt says the chamber’s May survey also asked members what the top issues were for the city’s businesspeople. The top issues were transport, housing, the city centre, and the cost and bureaucracy and red tape of getting approvals to operate, like consents, permits and other approvals from council.”

Matt says the candidates will be asked about specific decisions the commissioners have considered and what they will consider – if elected – in the next 12 months. “To get a read on how they will vote on key issues, I will see if they support any decisions that have been made, and question them on upcoming issues.”

And he’s looking forward to seeing how creative they are in their answers. “Can they think beyond the talking points? A lot of mayoral candidates don’t like to go into detail because it might put them in a pigeonhole, but voters want to know where they will vote on some of these pressing issues.”

The exclusive, free event is for Tauranga Business Chamber members to attend. Members can register on the chamber’s website.

However, the wider public can witness the debate live by joining the livestream on their social media accounts. Find the link on the chamber’s YouTube channel from 5pm onwards.

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