Forum question proves fruitless

Otago Regional Council candidate Gerry Eckhoff answers a question from the floor at the election...
Otago Regional Council candidate Gerry Eckhoff answers a question from the floor at the election forum. On the left, in the front row, are his fellow regional council candidates and on the right are the mayoral candidates. In the next row are district councillors, elected unopposed, community board candidates and Central Otago Heath representatives, also elected unopposed. PHOTO: LYNDA VAN KEMPEN
When are the grapes and cherries going to be added to Cromwell's Big Fruit sculpture?

That was one of the burning questions asked at last night's ``Meet the Candidates'' evening, hosted by the Cromwell Lions and Cromwell Rotary Club.

About 200 people attended to hear from candidates vying for the Central Otago mayoralty and for Otago Regional Council and Cromwell Community Board seats.

Cromwell resident Peter Brass said with the redevelopment of the Big Fruit surrounds and the town being known for its giant fruit sculpture, there was just one question still to be answered: ``When are the grapes and cherries going to be added?''

Cromwell Community Board chairman and deputy mayor Neil Gillespie had the answer: ``As soon as Robin Dicey pays for the grapes.''

Mr Dicey, a retired grape grower, is one of seven candidates vying for four seats on the community board.

``I can't afford it,'' he replied. ``You could help by going to the wineries and buying a bottle - one a week.''

The rest of the meeting was less light-hearted, covering topics such as wilding pines, sustainable growth and freedom camping.

Rates rises, especially in Cromwell, were a hot topic, with several members of the public complaining about a 20% increase this year.

Mayor Tony Lepper said although the rates had gone up, the rest of the district was contributing to Cromwell's $12 million sewerage scheme upgrade, under the ``districtised'' water and wastewater policy.

``We can't keep tipping sewage into the river - we need a modern solution,'' he said.

Mayoral and council candidate Martin McPherson said tourism development should not be council funded.

``I believe the industry is strong enough and big enough to look after itself now.''

Another mayoral candidate, Tim Cadogan, was pleased the council's new chief executive had customer service as a priority but said it should not be up to that person to have to change the council's culture - ``it should be customer-driven''.

The next mayoral candidates' forum will be held in Alexandra on Thursday. Hosted by the Otago Chamber of Commerce, in association with the Otago Daily Times, it will start in St Enoch's Church lounge at 8am.

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