Candidates take chance to speak

Waitaki's first two election candidate events were held at the weekend.

At the Loan and Merc on Saturday, mayoral, Waitaki District Council and Otago Regional Council ward candidates were given two minutes to speak about tourism in the district.

Yesterday, candidates new to the process were invited to speak to the public in five-minute blocks at the Scottish Hall.

Mayoral candidates Paul Mutch, Katrina Hazelhurst, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and incumbent councillors Colin Wollstein, Melanie Tavendale, Bill Kingan, Jim Hopkins and Jeremy Holding all spoke at the first meeting.

Those that spoke seeking election for the first time were John Shaw, Iain Clark, Derek Golding, Eugen Dupu, Eden Bradfield, Liz Cadogan, Peter Newton, Hana Halalele, Peter McLellan, Devin Familton and Kevin Malcolm (ORC).

Not present were incumbents Jan Wheeler and Guy Percival, challengers Jock Howie, Kelli Milmine and Stephen Wesselingh, and Ross McRobie, already elected unopposed in the Ahuriri ward.

All spoke with vigour about tourism in Waitaki, particularly its natural attractions and the aspiring Waitaki Whitestone Geopark project.

Mr Shaw said Waitaki was "all about the outdoors" which "needed to be embraced", and Mr Clark said people came to the district for "authentic, local and experiential tourism", and Mr Wollstein said domestic visitors needed to be attracted to Waitaki.

Mr Golding supported "education tourism" through the geopark, and Mr Dupu felt the district needed to understand what tourists actually wanted.

Mrs Tavendale considered the geopark a "springboard" for tourism, Mr Kingan spoke of the how the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trial had boosted tourism in Enfield, and Mrs Cadogan wanted to return the Victorian precinct to its "former glory" without "21st-century embellishments".

Mr McLellan said the district was too low on the "tourism radar", Mrs Halalele supported collaboration on tourism, and Mr Hopkins said the geopark had promise, but the challenge was to "fund and find" ticketable attractions for it.

Mr Familton supported freedom camping and Mr Holding said the council needed to "reimagine" its public spaces.

Mr Malcolm described the precinct as the "hub of tourism", and Mr Mutch said tourism should encompass the "visitor, guest and host".

Mrs Hazelhurst spoke of the need to send tourists to the "outermost regions" of the district, and Mr Kircher said Waitaki had so many marketable assets, the problem was how to "chose what we should actually be marketing".

Yesterday's event, hosted by Mrs Hazelhurst, involved new candidates speaking to members of the public individually about a range of issues.

Incumbent councillors and Mr Kircher were also invited, though not as part of the formal speaking process.

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