The Wairarapa and Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidates at Makoura College on Tuesday night. PHOTO/JAKE BELESKI
Drugs, housing, employment and education were all brought to the fore as issues facing Masterton’s east side at Tuesday night’s Meet-the-Candidates forum at Makoura College.
Wairarapa candidates at the debate were Alastair Scott (National) James Harold (Independent), John Hart (Green), Kieran McAnulty (Labour) and Ron Mark (NZ First).
They were joined by the three candidates for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate, Elizabeth Kerekere (Green), Marama Fox (Maori) and Meka Whaitiri (Labour).
The event was sponsored by the Eastside Community Group, and they asked each candidate what support could be expected from their party for the group’s mission of ‘building a caring, connected community, where all people live with pride’.
Mrs Fox said P (methamphetamine) was one of the biggest concerns facing residents on the east side.
“The scourge of the east side is P – people are getting offered P everywhere.
“That stuff gets into our schools and our communities and we will have an epidemic for the next 10 years at least.”
Mr McAnulty said his pledge to those present was that Trust House tenants would no longer be discriminated against, so they would have money to contribute to society.
“It’s about them not having to spend a huge amount of their income just to pay the rent bill.
“A community will find it hard to live with pride when children are going to school hungry or cold, and what the government can do is enable communities to move forward, but they have to prioritise that.”
Wairarapa MP, Mr Scott, said a strong economy was the prerequisite for doing anything, for anybody, in any service.
Making sure people were employed would help combat mental health issues, he said.
“It all comes back to a well-managed, well-run, economy.
“The strongest and best antidote to mental illness is work – get someone into work and they have pride in themselves, their family and their community.”
Mr Mark said the greatest platform to empowering a community was to empower the leadership that resides within, and he would stand for the Eastside Community Group every step of the way.
“The one thing I will pledge to you in my work, is that I will work with you.
“It’s not just about what government delivers, but what you can get from the council and what you build from your network . . . I love that you look organically within yourself for leadership within your community, and that is your greatest strength.”
Mr Hart said when you have a community struggling with housing, education and health, it becomes very difficult to engage or take part in community activities.
“We have to fix the safety net that has been allowed to degrade over the last 20-30 years,” he said.
“We are committed to lifting incomes for all families, and giving children the best start in life.”
Dr Kerekere echoed that sentiment, and said it was about visibility, identity, and realising who your mates and allies were.
“Often you’re in a community that gets marginalised, belittled and the people inside the community are told they aren’t as good as others.
“We can have the most awful things going on in our home, at the same time as amazing things happen.”
Incumbent Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP, Ms Whaitiri, said making sure rentales were warm and healthy, and putting money into schools were important policies.
“We want to replace the operational budget that has been taken out of primary schools.
“We believe the education system on the east side should be no different to any other parts of New Zealand in terms of resourcing.”
Affordable homes on the east side and cheaper visits to doctors were also priorities, she said.
Mr Harold did not speak about the east side specifically due to having no political party, but said he was concerned for the future.
“I’m scared for my children, and I will do anything in my power to ensure a brighter future for them.
“When we create wealth and jobs in our communities, crime will decrease – we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.”