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A Grey Power-organised "Meet the Candidates" event at Ascot Park Hotel was attended by hundreds of people.
The event included candidates for Environment Southland.
While potential new ICC councillors criticised a lack of transparency and communication from the current council, members of the other side defended the council's performance by pointing to assets the city had built and enhanced in recent years.
All candidates agreed communication with the public should be improved.
Another hot topic was the controversial decision to spurn a recommendation to replace Southland disAbility Enterprises as the province's waste recycling contractor.
Some councillors had to deal with "the elephant in the room" and explain how and why they voted.
There were supportive noises from the gallery when Grey Power life member and former president Geoff Piercy, who chaired the event, said the issue was not about money.
Mr Piercy said many elderly people found rates to be unaffordable, and that caused a lot of distress.
He challenged Environment Southland candidates about Invercargill's New River estuary, which he called a "filthy, stinky mess".
Water quality and dairy farming issues were also discussed.
Grey Power will host an event with Southern District Health Board candidates on Friday.