By: Samantha Motion
About 100 students packed out a small lecture theatre to hear from local election candidates at a Tauranga tertiary campus yesterday.
Speaking at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, candidates talked up the policies they hoped would appeal to students before answering questions on topics ranging from the gender pay gap and accessible transport to means testing superannuation and taxing corporations.
Parties represented included Labour, Green, ACT, Maori, The Opportunities Party, New Zealand First, and Democrats for Social Credit plus independents.
Jeanette Saxby from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party was expected but did not show.
National’s Todd Muller sent his apologies, unable to make it because of a family bereavement.
Labour had the biggest contingent of candidates, with all three seeking local seats in attendance plus former party leader Andrew Little.
Their supporters were visible and vocal. As might be expected, the party’s promise of up to three years of free tertiary education seemed to go down well with the crowd.
Wairakei candidate Tamati Coffey’s story about his dad losing his job at the plastic bottle factory and retraining to become chef at the Rotorua Cosmopolitan Club also garnered cheers.
Greens candidate Emma-Leigh Hodge was on home ground, having attended Toi Ohomai for the past five years. She said she had put her PhD studies on the backburner to campaign.
Toi Ohomai foundation studies student Kate Harston, a single mum-of-three from Pongakawa, went into the meeting an undecided voter.
She said she had been thinking about giving her party vote to Labour, having voted at previous elections for National and New Zealand First.
Ms Harston, who aims to study nursing, said lately she had been feeling that National was “too much about making the rich richer and letting the poor get poorer”.
She became interested in Labour when Jacinda Ardern took over as leader.
“I like the way she speaks.”
But it was another candidate that firmed up her decision in the meeting.
“It was Tamati; he sealed the deal. He is a confident speaker and made a good first impression. I liked what he had to say about health. I am a single mum who has spent time on the benefit and it has been really hard.
“I’ve never voted for Labour before, but this year I am.”
Source: Bay of Plenty Times