Sunday afternoon Havelock North Citizens Inc. sponsored a candidates’ forum featuring the three mayoral candidates for Hastings District, as well as the five candidates standing for the two Havelock North Ward seats on the Council. Hats off to HNC for an entertaining and informative session.

Here are my impressions of the candidates. Nothing herein should be taken as an endorsement. There’s much yet to be discovered in this campaign.

Mayoral candidates

Lawrence Yule — performed well under fire, considering he bore the brunt — for himself AND the Council — of every perceived wrongdoing to have occurred in Hastings District for the last, it seemed, century. I sure don’t agree with everything he’s done or is pursuing, but he is a poised, articulate leader … and that counts for something in governance.

Simon Nixon — BayBuzz has called him feisty, and he was this afternoon. He leveled a biting critique at the mayor. It would be a delight to see Simon and Lawrence go at it in a one-on-one debate. Again, hard to agree with everything he says, but he puts the tough questions out there.

Peter Nee Harland — I’ve had the pleasure of reading his extremely thoughtful views on many key issues percolating in the Hastings District. The problem is, words aren’t enough in politics and governing. Politics is a contact sport requiring, like it or not, and especially as mayor, someone who is able verbally and by strength of personality to persuade and communicate leadership. I didn’t see that ability at this event. He was one of two candidates who didn’t rise to answer a single question from the audience. He’ll need to do better in public forums if he’s to be taken seriously as a mayoral candidate.

Council candidates

Wayne Bradshaw — not one of the stronger performers on this day. Kind of got lost in the shuffle. Didn’t deliver a clear sense of where he was coming from or what he would want to accomplish. Needs to get his message down more tightly.

Robert Jarvis — one of the star presenters of the afternoon. Threw lots of bread to the circus — rates should rise no more than the cost-of-living and your Council rep should slavishly represent the views of you the electorate. Touts his experience as a strong business leader, while insisting he would be a mere voice of the people, echoing their views. The problem, potentially, is that most businessmen who enter politics fail … they don’t listen to anybody … they’re used to giving orders. As a mere Councillor, he wouldn’t get to give anyone orders! But you know what? No other Council candidate was up to the challenge of taking him on.

Richard Jones — a dignified man of perhaps another era. These days a candidate should be expected to say more than, in effect: “I have been there; therefore I should be there again.” Oddly, while the audience seemed packed with disgruntled voters, none seemed to aim their frustrations at him. Seemed to me he got a free pass at this session.

Mandy Kimber — quietly eloquent. Adroitly underscored her female-ness in a male-dominated event. Said exactly the right things for the environmentally-minded … the only candidate to do so, I might add. One gets the impression she would bring some necessary sensibilities to the HDC. I ached to see Robert Jarvis throw his arm around her — in the team spirit he insisted was crucial for the two Havelock Councillors — and announce: “I’m with you 100% Mandy … NO development on Ocean Beach!” Yeah right!

Wayne Newcastle — essentially his message was: Vote for me because New Zealand is a great place and so is Hawke’s Bay and isn’t life here wonderful. Sorry Wayne, voters will need to hear a lot more than that.

………

As I said at the outset, there will be more opportunities for these candidates to converse with the voters and establish their points of difference.

Win or lose, each of these candidates deserves our admiration for doing something none of the rest of us complainers is willing to do … run for office!

Tom

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