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September 30, 2013 | by  | in News |
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A Real Mayor of a Forum

Candidates in the upcoming local-body elections visited campus last week, hoping to win students’ hearts and, to a greater extent, their votes.

Approximately 250 people attended VUWSA’s Mayoral Forum held in the Hub last Wednesday, where candidates in the mayoral, Regional Council and local-ward elections went head to head with each other and students.

Students were given the opportunity to ask questions of the mayoral candidates, with the majority of questions being on student issues like fairer fares, a rental-housing warrant of fitness, and alcohol policy. The living-wage campaign, public transport, environmental concerns around deep-sea drilling, and a runway extension were among other issues arising from the discussion.

John Morrison received an unsurprisingly chilly reception from the crowd on occasion. Three weeks ago, Salient revealed Morrison laid a complaint with the Wellington City Council Electoral Office which lead to ballot boxes being removed from campus, further disenfranchising student voters whose turnout is notoriously poor.

Mayoral candidate Rob Goulden called Morrison out on his complaint, shouting: “Shame on you [for] suppressing democracy.” Morrison later returned the retort, accusing Goulden of not having a consistent approach to ballot-box placement across the city.

“Shame on you Rob, for not having boxes in hospitals and rest homes,” Morrison replied as the crowd jeered.

Goulden and Morrison’s exchange was not the only flashpoint, as current Mayor Celia Wade-Brown took umbrage at Morrison saying nothing had been achieved in Wade-Brown’s three-year term.

“You’ve had your turn,” Morrison chortled, telling Wade-Brown “get on your bike”.

Jack Yan was the clear crowd favourite, though his support appeared to dwindle after it was revealed that he helps run Miss Universe New Zealand.

The Forum heard emotional stories from two University cleaners who implored candidates to embrace the living-wage campaign, Ibrahim Omer-Salin and Mata Anguna-Takairangi. Omer-Salin spoke of having to work two jobs, putting in 70 to 80 hours each week to make ends meet, while Anguna-Takairangi told the Forum New Zealand was not the promised land of milk and honey. Nicola Young was the only candidate to speak against the Council adopting a living-wage policy.

VUWSA printed 2,500 postcards at a cost of nearly $600 before the forum to distribute amongst students, advertising which GWRC candidates supported fairer fares. VUWSA President Rory McCourt said the “small cost” of printing the postcards came from the Student Services Levy, and that the cost “pales in comparison” to the money students will save from cheaper transport, should the campaign be successful.

“Each student paid about 2.7 cents of their $676.00 SSL fee towards them. I think that’s pretty good value to inform students on which candidates support cheaper public transport,” said McCourt, adding the event was the biggest VUWSA has held in his memory.

“I was really happy to see hundreds of students engaging with the candidates, commenting on twitter and voting on the day.

“It’s important that students engage with the local elections because good local leaders are the only way we’ll get warmer flats, fairer fares and a Wellington economy that has jobs for when we graduate,” said McCourt.

Students could place special votes at a stall in the Hub on the day of the Forum, and around 100 special votes had already been cast by the time the Forum finished—“a lot for special voting”, according to the staff operating the booth. The booth remained open throughout the afternoon.

Postal ballots for the local-body election can be mailed in before 12 October. Those wishing to enrol or cast a special vote can find information on how to do so at elections.org.nz.

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