*just a political student writing my observations–also a human with bias–do your own research 🙂
It’s Wednesday the 9th of August and I’m trudging up the hill from the Civic, heading toward St Matthews Church. According to the event square on Instagram, doors would open for the ‘Great Auckland Central’s MP Election Debate’ at 5:30–so when I arrive outside the front of the church at 5:29, I’m sure my punctuality will earn me a seat up the front with a decent view.
To my surprise (but to the credit of Auckland Central’s apparently politically-inclined community), the closest spot I could find was in the 9th row. So I sat myself down and observed as more community members drew in from the drizzling rain outside, and soon enough the candidates also popped up, one by one, making their candid entrances and starting conversations with people sitting in the pews.
The lady next to me makes small talk about how she hopes ‘that Mahesh guy’ might knock Chlöe out of the Auckland Central seat. I smile politely, knowing all too well that the laptop in my bag is covered with stickers like ‘I only date people who vote green’ and ‘Tax the rich’, and continue taking my notes. I like to strive for objectivity as an aspiring political journalist but it’s difficult to side-step such a preference when the university campus turns into a Swarckland campaign during election year (not to mention climate change AND billionaires exist–and those things make ‘radical’ leftism irresistible).
6pm rolls around and the four candidates—Damian from TOP, Mahesh from National, Oscar from Labour and Chlöe from Greens—Ready themselves on stage for the upcoming dance-off.
The first question posed at the candidates–regarding an increase in ram-raids over the past year–very quickly lured out a Labour-National face off.
“People should be able to walk down Queen Street and feel safe” was Oscar’s leading remark. But National ‘talk a big game’ when it comes to achieving that goal, he claims even the audience jeered at such a comment. Mahesh was quick to fire back.
Labour’s crime response is “nothing to be proud of… just own it, [you] messed up”
The audience verdict was clear as applause erupted.
“Violence has no place in this city” Chlöe asserted, before turning her attention to the bickering pair. “We need more than just sound byte solutions…let’s have a grown-up conversation” she said, then continued on about evidence-based solutions and effective responses and vibrancy and what-not.
Damian was pumped and ready to nail his choreo on the ‘we need to fix housing’ spiel— he’d already flaunted his expertise in the opening statement, in which housing was the only thing he talked about.
So he got his moment in the spotlight— and spoke about a ‘comprehensive plan’ to make housing affordable which included things like utilising ‘urban residential land’ and imposing ‘land taxes’ to encourage more sales and development— which would help out… the non-home-owning average person… I think? I’m sure the plan makes sense on paper but I didn’t quite catch it.
Soon enough anyway, the spotlight flicked back to Mahesh and Oscar. “We want to see people build.” says Mahesh, to which Oscar retorted, “The National Party just wants to return to the status quo… [they] don’t support young people.”
Oscar would know–as he dutifully informed the audience, he was the youngest candidate there.
The mediator, Herald writer Simon Wilson, broke up the back-and-forth with an ice-breaker– ‘what’s the one thing you couldn’t live without?’ he asked. The answers were unsurprising– albeit stretched in all different directions.
Chlöe: my community
Oscar: my gym shoes
Mahesh: my wife
Damian: “the opportunity to live the life that I want” [very fitting–Opportunities Party candidate]
The transport conversation veered into pollution, congestion and why Labour insists on more tunnels into the city
“When it rains, the Harbour Bridge shuts down” asserted Oscar, maintaining that accessibility is a key motivation for Labour’s plan—that roads are necessary.
Even from my seat (where I had to crane my neck to even see her at all), I could tell that Chlöe Swarbrick would suck at poker. “Money doesn’t grow on trees, but apparently money grows on roads” she shot back. Mahesh also took the opportunity to jive at Labour’s wasteful spending and the importance of the economy and future prosperity.
A quick trivia ensued to keep the candidates on their toes, but the mediator moved too quickly to let Chlöe show off her moves before wisping off to the next question. And finally, the audience got their turn to challenge the contestants–but for the most part, this involved listening to random community members venting almost incoherently about local issues and hiding their question somewhere in the middle.
The most notable occurrence in this section followed Oscar reiterating again that he is the youngest candidate, and thus supports young peoples’ values. But when asked if he personally supported a wealth tax, the short answer was—-
Chlöe – I’m already doing the job, let me do 3 more years
Oscar – AKL Central’s the best (vote for me)
Mahesh – if you want someone to get things done – vote for me
Damian – vote for Chloe
So who won? Depends on who you ask.
Who will win? That’s up to you—Remember to vote on October 14!