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Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan (53) and deputy mayor Hamish Anderson (52) answered questions concerning roading, district development and just what made each candidate the best choice for the job.
Mr Cadogan hopes to return for a second term in office, while Mr Anderson hopes to win the top job after unsuccessfully standing in the 2010 elections.
The forum is the first in a series involving mayoral candidates across the region. Organised by the Otago Daily Times and Otago Chamber of Commerce, it was chaired by chamber chief executive John Christie and ODT editorial manager Philip Somerville.
Mr Somerville said that from his experience as a council reporter, it was very unusual for the mayor and deputy mayor to both stand for election.
He asked both candidates if the council was divided, and if they were supported by the majority or minority.
Both candidates stated there was no division.
Mr Anderson said councillors had no allegiance to any political party or community groups, and were divided only on issues it discussed.
''We're a very cohesive council that works in a democratic way.''
He said his statement that he had the support of the majority of councillors was a result of working out that over 50% was a majority. He did not approach all councillors.
''They were exercising their free will.''
Mr Cadogan described the council as ''happy and cohesive''.
But ''I have certainly lost votes that have meant a lot to me''.
He said he made it clear to councillors from the start he would never ask for their votes, only that they stick to their beliefs.
Mr Cadogan's statement was greeted by applause from the public.
Kevin Baron asked the candidates to describe the personal attributes that made them the best candidate.
Mr Anderson said he was not a ''lone voice out there'' and worked on consensus and consultation.
''There have been a number of issues that have come up, and council knew nothing about them - council works better if it is consulted.''
Mr Cadogan said he would have some dignity, and would focus on what he had to offer the district he loved.
''I'm all in. It is my life ... this is my district and this is what I love to do ... if there has been an issue, why hasn't one single councillor come to me?''
Catlins ratepayer Stu Hewson asked how infrastructure in the Catlins would be improved, particularly roads and bridges. Both candidates attributed worsening roading to lack of funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), which had not adjusted the council's funding for inflation.
Mr Anderson said the council needed to make a good case to the Government that once Auckland's infrastructure is sorted, it will be time for Otago to have some ''catch-up''.
Mr Cadogan said the district needed to get its share, and fight for important projects, such as the Clydevale bridge, which is being strengthened despite NZTA initially deferring the project.
The forum took a break for five minutes, when an unexpected visitor - the Ranfurly Shield - made an appearance.
Mr Somerville closed the debate, reminding voters that this was an important election process, and hoped the outcome was the best for the district.