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Fiery debate

Mike Butterick, Warren Butterworth, Celia Wade-Brown. Kieran McAnulty and Ron Mark at the Featherston candidate’s debate. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

Shouting, swearing, and heckling – audience puts candidates to the test
Game on: Candidates event ‘a hoot’

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Shouting, swearing, and heckling – it was all go at Wednesday night’s Wairarapa candidates’ debate at Featherston’s The Garrison Cafe and Bar.

A crowd of 130 took several candidates to task over tough issues such as illegal drugs, carbon credit scams, mental health, housing, and the upcoming referendums.

Candidates at the debate were National’s Mike Butterick, Advance NZ’s Nigel Gray, Green’s Celia Wade-Brown, Labour’s Kieran McAnulty, and NZ First’s Ron Mark.

A small majority of the crowd were in favour of the End of Life Choice Bill, but when it came to the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, many were against.

When members of the audience asked questions to the candidates, things heated up.

One resident asked what the candidates would do about the increasing gangs, methamphetamine trade, and home invasion problem in Wairarapa.

McAnulty said being tougher on crime was important and everyone should feel safe in their homes but the other candidates brought the solution down to ensuring the education system was identifying people at risk sooner and getting skills for life going early on.

Butterick said getting school children practical skills was a way to see a life away from gangs and drugs and into a good job.

“National has pledged to increase the number of specialists that can deal with P addiction in district health boards,” he said.

Mark said that the ‘farms in prisons’ approach was good and working to get inmates focused on being work ready rather than identifying with gang life.

He said a reason he would like to remain an MP was to help reform the youth justice system and help keep young people out of it and out of prison.

Julian O’Neale asked what each candidate was going to do to better support mental health needs in the community.

Butterick and McAnulty were keen to answer this question.

McAnulty mentioned Labour’s funding for councillors in schools and a nurse in primary schools to assist with health and mental health issues.

Butterick said it was important to get funding and decision-making back at a community level.

Towards the end of the event, Labour Party hecklers supporting McAnulty were loud with one calling a candidate a “****ing idiot”, and another booing when Butterick spoke.

Former Whanganui Labour MP Jill Pettis took on answering questions and audience callouts herself.

Pettis is not standing for the seat, a fact that Mark decided to remind her of.

Butterick noted the strong Labour presence but said overall the evening was good fun and said he was pleased to have come.

“It’s been a hoot.” The race between National and Labour for the seat has clearly kicked off.

There were some light-hearted moments at the event, which was organised by Jennie Marks and Ritchie Wards.

To get punters in the mood, the candidates were asked silly questions, including whether the candidates would push for Featherston to become a republic.

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