Standing room only for fun

It was standing room only in the Opera House Inkbox last night for the second Otago mayoral debate, this time between the seven candidates seeking the Waitaki mayoralty, who faced voters at a good-humoured forum.

More than 120 people were in the audience, with extra seating brought in to cope, interest generated by the large number of candidates and the chance for voters to learn more about those they did not know.

Promoted by the Otago Chamber of Commerce and Otago Daily Times, with the chamber chief executive John Christie and ODT editorial manager Phil Somerville as chairmen, the forum gave the audience an opportunity to hear the candidates' views on a wide range of questions.

At the start, Fliss Butcher (55), Jim Hopkins (66), Gary Kircher (49), Greg Smith (30), Eric Spittal (70), Helen Stead (74) and David Wilson (55) were allowed one minute to say something about themselves, what they wanted to achieve and why they were standing.

That was followed by a prepared question, with two minutes to answer, asking what candidates would do to push for more jobs and economic development.

This led to a question from the audience asking, rather than creating low-paid jobs, what candidates would do to attract high-paid jobs - such as those paying $50 an hour.

Mrs Stead agreed low-paid jobs were not the only way to go, but a start had to be made somewhere, she said. Mrs Butcher believed jobs in the health and wellness industry were there for the taking.

Mr Hopkins said the question implied low-paid jobs were undesirable, but he believed a mix across all ranges was needed. Mr Kircher said it was not realistic to get only $50-an-hour jobs, and even new $25-an-hour government jobs in the district would be a good start.

Mr Smith said entry-level jobs were needed because no-one got high-paid jobs without starting somewhere.

Mr Spittal believed creative work schemes were needed, starting with apprenticeships; and Mr Wilson wanted to see the region excel across all industries with the aid of government investment.

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