With the 2017 general election next Saturday, The Courier reporter Greta Yeoman asks Waitaki electorate candidates what issues they are hearing about from residents while on the campaign trail.
Taxes, tourism, housing, health and the environment are among the main issues for Waitaki electorate residents, candidates say.
National candidate and Waitaki electorate MP Jacqui Dean said given the vast and varied nature of the electorate, several different issues were being raised by residents, but frustration and concern from farmers from Labour’s water tax proposal was a big concern.
“To bring additional costs to farmers who, on the whole, are already complying to strict regional council water use conditions is in my view irresponsible, unnecessarily hammering the country’s second strongest industry and simply driving the rural and urban divide.”
Residents, many of whom were new business owners, were also concerned Labour’s tourist tax proposal would stop the region’s “tourism boom” in its tracks, she said.
National had already allocated $102million for new tourism infrastructure and had added $76million for conservation infrastructure, both without introducing a new tax, Ms Dean said.
There was also a major focus on Oamaru hospital throughout the campaign, and Ms Dean said she needed to ensure there were improved models of care at the South Canterbury District Health Board’s (SCDHB) facilities.
Labour candidate Zelie Allan said Waitaki was huge, resulting in varied issues across the electorate.
Health issues had come up a lot, including the $1million needed to complete the fundraising for the Maniototo Hospital, bed blocking and refusing to take more patients at hospitals, variety of charges to visit the GP and difficulty accessing mental health support, especially in rural areas.
She said there was also “real concern” about infrastructure in the big tourist areas including Twizel and Tekapo, while lake towns, like Wanaka, had concerns about water quality.
Waitaki Democrats for Social Credit candidate Hessel Van Wieren said many issues were coming up at meetings, depending on the audience and the event’s
organisers. He said water/environment issues were relevant since Labour had made them an issue, while health, infrastructure and housing were also up there.
“Our party, Democrats for Social Credit, is against any need for water tax or royalties.” He said monetary reforms would provide ample funding for water quality issues, but bad water quality had not arrived out of nowhere.
“Land use intensification, . . . along with the government’s demand-driven flawed economic ideology, are the causes of these problems.”
He said the lack of funding for urgent infrastructure spending was an issue as well, while Public Private Partnerships were just “privatisation by stealth”.
Green Party candidate Pat Wall said the big issues were things like climate change, water quality, inequality, and being a low wage and low value economy when we are capable of so much more. Local issues also included the underfunding of regional heath care, he said.
“The need to travel great distances to larger centres for care puts great financial strain on folks in small town New Zealand.” He said the current government had really let down the people and the environment, seeking short-term gains for investors over the common good.
The Opportunities Party candidate Kevin Neill said the main issue he had been coming across was the cost of housing. “[Our] tax policy will both slow down property values and give a 30% tax reduction for wage and salary earners. This policy will help alleviate the difference between the value of property and the low wage rate.”
New Zealand First candidate Alexander Familton said the big issues raised by residents included the transfer of the Oamaru Courthouse from central government to ratepayers of Waitaki and the “lack of representation” by National MP and current electorate MP Jacqui Dean over the Maniototo Hospital rebuild, Oamaru Courthouse and Oamaru hospital issues.
He also raised the issue of the “unfair” funding system for rural regions, as central government was putting $1.4billion into the Dunedin Hospital rebuild, while Maniototo residents were forced to pay for theirs.