No issue with organisation of candidate debates

Michael Laws
Michael Laws
Dunstan candidates for the Otago Regional Council seem to have no issue with a sitting councillor and competitor being the face of election debates.

Candidates Cr Michael Laws and Alexa Forbes initially organised the five meetings for the ward, in which people vying for a council seat can make their case.

The meetings will be held around Central Otago, including Wanaka, over a week starting from tomorrow.

All six candidates have indicated they will take part and have also become involved in their organisation.

Cr Laws has paid for advertisements for the meetings, which display his face but no other candidates.

Initially, Cr Laws and Ms Forbes were due to chair the meetings, although there is now talk of independent chairmen for some and candidates "taking turns" chairing the others.

Candidates spoken to this week had no issues with how the meetings were organised.

Gary Kelliher said he would "run with whatever" and liked the idea of candidate meetings as regional council issues were important to the community.

"I think [Cr Laws'] intentions are genuine."

Phill Hunt said voters would be able to see past any perceived impartiality.

"The regional council elections otherwise tend to fly under the radar," Mr Hunt said.

Cr Graeme Bell said he would prefer there to be independent chairmen.

He and the other candidates offered to pay for the hiring of rooms, which had not been responded to by Cr Laws and Ms Forbes.

Richard Bowman said he could not comment on the advertisement as he had not seen it.

He understood the meetings would be run in "quite a collegial way", Mr Bowman said.

Ms Forbes said she had not thought far enough ahead as to whether she would chair any of the meetings.

"We decided to organise something informal. I would be horrified if candidates didn't have the chance to talk."

Cr Laws said he did not see a problem with how the meetings were organised.

"Alexa and I said `why don't we do these ourselves?' and then we said `oh, why don't we invite the other candidates?'

"The other four candidates are bloody lucky we've invited them."

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said how the meetings were organised was "entirely up to" the candidates.

"Some people go to interesting lengths to develop a profile during electoral campaigns."

He would be interested to know how many people attended, he said.

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