Healthcare hot topic at election meeting

Clutha-Southland candidates at yesterday's election meeting in Queenstown are (from left) Rachael...
Clutha-Southland candidates at yesterday's election meeting in Queenstown are (from left) Rachael Goldsmith (Greens), chairwoman Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden, Lachlan Ashton (Conservative), Todd Barclay (National), Liz Craig (Labour), Don...

The cost and availability of healthcare was the focus of a Clutha-Southland joint candidates' meeting in Queenstown yesterday.

About 50 people converged on the St John rooms in Frankton for the Grey Power-hosted meeting.

Among the issues raised were child poverty and health, the economy, power prices, special needs education and National Superannuation.

However, the rising cost of healthcare and the lack of aged care facilities in the district got the biggest airing.

Chaired by Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden, the meeting began with candidates getting four minutes each to introduce themselves and lay out their party policies.

Ms van Uden then invited questions from the audience, warning candidates she would cut them off if their replies became ''boring and rambling''.

In response to a question about the cost of health services, Labour candidate and public health doctor Liz Craig said her party would boost funding to ensure services ''kept up'' with the district's rapidly rising population, and would re-examine the population-based funding formula to ensure fairness.

National candidate Todd Barclay said although National had increased health funding every year it had been in government, he acknowledged funding ''hasn't filtered down to smaller centres''.

He also agreed there was a shortage of aged care services in the district.

He cited the West Otago health centre in Tapanui as an example of how communities could take ownership and control of health facilities when there was a lack of services.

NZ Independent Coalition candidate Karl Barkley said the district suffered from a lack of residential care facilities for elderly people who could no longer live at home, but wanted to stay in the region near family and friends.

He suggested every visitor to the district pay a levy to help fund the cost of health care and other public services.

Conservative Party candidate Lachlan Ashton said the district was not getting its ''fair share of health infrastructure''.

Act New Zealand candidate Don Nicolson agreed, saying Queenstown ''has a problem with transient people''.

When asked about the rising cost of electricity, Dr Craig and the Green Party's Rachael Goldsmith outlined their parties' joint policy to create a single buyer for wholesale power.

Dr Craig said the country's wholesale power market was ''broken'' and the policy would bring prices down by up to 14% for households and up to 10% for businesses.

Mr Barclay said power prices rose slower under National than during the previous Labour government.

''We don't think lumping it together and putting it in the hands of politicians is the way forward.''

Of the eight candidates contesting the seat, two did not attend - Glenorchy resident James Veint, of the Ban 1080 Party, and Queenstown resident Jason Jobsis, of the Democrats for Social Credit Party.

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