Wide range of topics covered

Gerry Eckhoff.
Gerry Eckhoff.
Water, wilding pines and wallabies were among the topics touched on at an election forum in Omakau last night.

The only vote made during the evening was clear-cut. Two hours in, the majority of the 100-strong crowd voted to call it quits rather than extend proceedings for half hour.

Candidates for the Central Otago mayoralty, the Earnscleugh-Manuherikia ward of the Vincent Community Board and the Otago Regional Council's Dunstan ward introduced themselves and answered questions.

The crowd also heard from the two Central Otago District Council Earnscleugh-Manuherikia ward councillors, who have gained their seats unopposed.

It was the first election forum outing in Central Otago for the regional council candidates and they fielded a question from Brian Turner, of Oturehua, about whether they believed there were limits to growth.

Graeme Bell said it was important to follow the right policies to achieve aspirations and goals, Gerry Eckhoff said some would say the market set limits but he believed ''there has to be a time when someone says: enough''.

Maggie Lawton said there were limits to growth ''but there are ways we can grow and use less resources if we're smart about it''.

Michael Laws said a balance could be struck and the regional council could set very strong standards for growth.

Gary Kelliher said there was definitely a balance: ''if you push the boundaries too far, you end up with something you didn't want and never aspired to have.''

Earlier, candidates talked about the spread of wilding pines and thyme and Crs Bell and Kelliher said if wallabies became established in Central Otago it would be disastrous.

Cr Bell said there had been sightings of wallabies ''not too far from here''.

Mayoral candidates were also asked their views on environmental issues, intensification of land use and limited water resources.

Mayor Tony Lepper said the district council was in the early stages of its district plan review and it would reflect the public's views on the issue. The regional council was dealing with water issues.

Mayoral candidate Tim Cadogan said the pressures of business and the impact on the environment had to be finely balanced and the third candidate, Martin McPherson (also seeking a council seat), said future intensification of land use was inevitable but the council could manage that growth.

Water quality, rates rises, council spending on tourism and reducing the carbon footprint were other topics canvassed.

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