When it comes to evaluating candidates, there’s no substitute for watching them “perform” in the flesh.

One can read position statements, media releases, look at adverts, written responses to Q&As, etc. — all of which is valuable and builds a public record against which to hold the winner accountable. But watching them respond to questions (especially informed ones) and spar with one another in realtime provides the best insights.

Forest and Bird provided such a welcome opportunity Thursday night, when they hosted a public exchange with the five candidates for Tukituki MP — Craig Foss (National), Rick Barker (Labour), Quentin Duthie (Greens), Duncan Lennox (ACT) and Barry Crawford (Democrats for Social Credit).

As one would expect, given the host organisation, most of the discussion revolved around conservation and environment issues.

It was mostly the Rick and Craig show, with an occasional reminder from expert witness Quentin that without the Greens around as babysitter, the children in Parliament could be up to even worse mischief.

Duncan lost all credibility when he cited “scientific disagreement” about global warming and its causes … good night, Duncan. And Barry expounded on a public financing scheme that would cure all New Zealand’s ills … sounding like the snake oil salesmen who claim going back to the gold standard will secure economic salvation.

So back to Rick and Craig.

I liked the way Rick came out swinging (which isn’t to say he’s necessarily captured my vote). He waded into the issues with gusto, fully prepared to extol Labour’s record and attack what he saw as the weaknesses of National on environmental matters, and unafraid on a couple of occasions to challenge the leanings of his questioners.

Craig had a “quieter” style. He boxed and jabbed from a defensive crouch. It seemed as though he had calculated that National’s policies would be suspect to this audience, and so he focused instead on illustrating his personal commitment to the environment. And he was more nuanced in his responses to policy questions, which isn’t always a plus in debate-like settings.

I’d give this night’s match to Barker on slim points; no knock-out here. But we’d probably see the opposite result if they were boxing at the Chamber of Commerce.

Actually, what I’d personally love to see is more direct hand-to-hand combat between Barker and Foss, as opposed to the oblique, non-confrontational method of “debating” via serial answers to the same question. But I guess that’s not the Kiwi style, except in Parliament itself.

All in all, I came away with the impression that only one of these five candidates wakes up most mornings thinking about what he might do to protect or nurture the environment … that would be Quentin.

But that’s not a knock on the others, who wake up with other legitimate priorities and concerns on their minds — like economic prosperity or social welfare — that they would like to see government address.

And for many voters, the choice of candidates and parties does not come down to one issue anyway, but rather to some individualised blend of issues, aspirations and candidate qualities.

In the weeks ahead, BayBuzz will be devoting plenty of “airtime” to the national election and its issues and personalities. And our next edition of BayBuzz Digest will focus entirely on the election. You’ll hear from the candidates themselves, and from other advocates and critics of the parties and their policies.

So stay tuned … and if you have the chance to see the candidates in action firsthand, do it!


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  1. What an interesting and unbiased report Tom has published! I can hear the tuis sing.

    I said we had to be careful not to jump in too quickly over aspects of the climate change and the extent to which human activity was causing it, when the scientific worlds is divided on that. There is a danger in thinking that all conservationists go along with the view that what is happening to the climate is entirely driven by human activity. More to the point is the implication that anyone who questions some of the claims is not a conservationist and doesn’t give a toss about the planet or pollution. That is a straw man argument and begs the question. I.e. someone like myself is ignorant, stupid, selfish, a danger to the planet, and probably driven by capitalist greed.

    In fact I live on government superannuation plus whatever bits of work I can get to supplement it a bit. I live in Flaxmere and have done so for most of the past thirty years. I care for this country and hate pollution. I have children and grandchildren living in the area. I have every bit as much reason as anyone to be concerned about their future.

    John Ormond, the previous candidate for ACT in Tukituki, and currently candidate for Napier, has been doing a lot of research about climate change issues. Since he began disseminating information on what he has discovered, he has been inundated with letters from highly qualified, practising scientists from around the world, confirming his findings and providing him with additional evidence.

    Many people have been influenced by propaganda such as Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. But the courts in Britain found that the film was severely flawed and misrepresented as fact things that were incorrect and in some parts fabrications. Can one dismiss scientists of the calibre of David Ballamy? Can David Ballamy be considered an ignoramus with no care for the environment?

    The big issue for ACT is not that the scientists disagree or that Climate Change may have some natural causes it is that a tiny discredited majority of Parliament has rushed through for entirely political reasons a dreadfully drafted law which will have the effect of damaging possibly destroying the economic backbone of this country and it will not change the climate upwards or downwards one iota. It is all "feel good nonsense" and if we were serious we would concentrate on what we can change and that is water allocation and a reduction in the use of oil.


  2. Duncan Lennox perhaps once you pull your head out of the sand you may take the time to go see the new movie- Earth. If you come away with just one piece of evidence just pay atention to the scenes showing the polar bear.

    I have very little time or patience responding to poor demented people such as yourself.

    I have said it before If you are wrong -then we are all fu**ed.

    If we are wrong we just saved a heap on energy etc.

    If you cannot find anything more constructive than to write cr*p -go plant some tress-it will be good for your soul!

    In fact more investors are putting huge money into green companies [alternative energy etc] because that is where the world is headed.

    ACT had their day -put Roger back in the resthome.


  3. Dave's "argument" bears out the truth that when your argument is weak, attack the integrity and intelligence of the person, attribute nasty motives to him and, if really short on logic, use abusive language – by whatever means you can, shout him down and shut him up so no-one gets to listen. It seems to be a case of, "Shout here, argument weak."

    Dave, I am disapointed in your agism about Sir Roger. Just because people are a bit older (and now-a-days 70 isn't old) doesn't mean they are dumb and useless. Roger is as sharp and energetic now as he ever was. He is in constant demand to advise governments all around the world.

    Labour, not ACT, had its day, for they were the government when Sir Roger Douglas was in government. Look too at how many of the current Labour MPs were in parliament and in cabinet when Roger was Minister of Finance and so were party to the reforms he introduced. They abuse him now but it was a different story when he was in cabinet.

    The situation with the current Labour government is like a replay of an old movie of the last days of Muldoon. Like then, the economy is a mess, we are almost broke, but Helen and Michael are on a spending spree, as though they want to make the situtation as bad as possible for a new government. Like Muldoon, Labour has become arrogant, dictatorial, and is drowning the place with bureaucratic red tape and increasingly intrusive laws. Muldoon brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy. The reforms Roger Douglas brought in dealt with the financial crisis Muldoon had created. He developed ways to set the country on the road to economic success. This government has reaped the financial benefits of his reforms and has squandered a golden opportunity to prepare the way for the kinds of economic crises we are currently facing in the world.

    Roger sorted out the mess inherited from Muldoon. He is the ideal man to sort out the current mess. None of the other parties has a real strategy for the next 25 or more years. They are visionless and passionless.

    ACT has the vision, the plan and the team to point us in the right direction again.

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