Contenders meet the voters

Clutha-Southland candidates at last night's election meeting in Balclutha. From left, Don Nicolson (Act NZ), Dr Liz Craig (Labour), Rachael Goldsmith (Greens), Karl Barkley (Independent Party), and Todd Barclay (National). Photo by Hamish MacLean Clutha-Southland has been Bill English's electorate since it was created in 1996 but for the first time in its history it will have a fresh face representing its constituents.

About 60 people turned out in Balclutha to meet the candidates last night.

National candidate Todd Barclay gave a clear message of staying the course.

Labour's Dr Liz Craig, a public health specialist, criticised the Government's approach to the regions.

She said National's current ''hands-off approach to regional development'' had resulted in losses.

''We're losing our timber mills, we're losing woollen mills and we're seeing large numbers of our young people going away for opportunities elsewhere.''

Rachael Goldsmith, who wrote the Green Party's pro-choice policy, said while she was not against dairying, she was opposed to the Government's approach of ''all eggs in one basket''.

''We need to have an evidence and research basis for future planning [of] Clutha-Southland's future, rather than the ideological approach of the current Government, who are solely focused on milk powder,'' she said.

The Government's investment in roads was one example Mr Barclay used to demonstrate a commitment to regional spending.

''Over the last six years, since National has been in government, we've invested $460 million in regional roads in Otago and Southland alone.''

Foreign ownership of New Zealand land was another issue for some, but Mr Barclay said too often he had heard ''foreign investment'' used to describe certain groups that should not buy in New Zealand.

He referred to British music producer Mutt Lange's purchase of 53,000 hectares over four properties between Wanaka and Arrowtown and his ''cost equivalent $120 million gift'' to the people of New Zealand by placing the land under protective covenants.