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Candidates braved heckling and water pistols at the Aro Valley Community Centre to vie for the Wellington Central electorate seat last Monday night.
The hall was packed to capacity and, in line with tradition, candidates who spoke too long were squirted with water pistols.
Speakers were from NZ First, Conservative Party, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, Democrats for Social Credit, Internet Mana, Green, National and Labour, as well as two independent candidates.
Geoffrey Karena spoke first, an independent candidate. He said: “I don’t want no party vote; well, we ain’t got a party”. He represented the Hui Independent Movement and wanted a country free from oppression. He opposed means-testing for superannuation, as the people he represents “have no means”.
Hugh Barr, NZ First candidate, said his party is “not looking after the rich” and “it’s not looking after unions or the poor… we look after all New Zealanders”. He outlined policies to bring down the exchange rate and opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which he said was a treaty that “takes away our sovereignty”.
Alistair Gregory, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (ALCP) candidate, wanted New Zealand to “stop making criminals out of people who like having a joint.” He said medicinal, recreational and spiritual use of marijuana is a standard human right and an election issue, and “other parties are starting to wake up”.
James Knuckey, NZ Democrats for Social Credit candidate, said his party wanted a Universal Basic Income and a financial transactions tax, levied on speculative investment, currency speculation and investment trading. He hoped his party would make it out of the ‘other’ category this election, and is aware people dislike the length of the party’s title, “including people within the party”.
Grant Robertson, Labour candidate and incumbent electorate MP, spoke wearing a waterproof poncho. Labour would alleviate the stress of poverty, raise the minimum wage and create more emergency and social housing in Wellington. He said that in Aro Valley, “the only undecided vote is Paul Foster-Bell’s campaign manager”.
James Shaw, Green Party candidate, praised Aro Valley for their 44 per cent Green Party vote last election. He said in the last 30 years, “New Zealand has gone from being one of the most equal societies in the OECD to one of the most unequal”. His party would clean New Zealand’s rivers, reduce carbon emissions, introduce a living wage and give free off-peak transport to tertiary students.
Callum Valentine, Internet Mana candidate, wanted to “bring the weirdness of the internet into Parliament this September”. He said Internet Mana stood for “unions, the poor, and people who love Game of Thrones.” The party would make tertiary education free and would build a knowledge economy “away from milk production and raw logs”.
Paul Foster-Bell, National candidate, persevered through the worst of the heckling and said National would “lift the standard of teaching by investing $350 million” into early childhood education. He said National had improved the health system by reducing waiting times and providing world-class cancer treatment. He said he and Grant Robertson had a lot in common as “we both want David Cunliffe to lose the election”.
Peter Robinson, an independent candidate, wanted to fix the economy of New Zealand as it is “dictated to by earthquake fault-lines”. Addressing a confused audience, he said, “All government departments as of the 31st of March 1975 will be reinstated,” and “the Local Bodies Act of 31st of March 1984 will be revisited”.
Brian Hooper, 80-year-old Conservative Party candidate, said he “dreaded coming here tonight” and did not speak on policy. He said “I’ll scrap the part about the Conservative Party and I’ll tell you a little bit about where I live and what I do”. He said his wife had “said she’d replace me tonight”, to which a heckler yelled out “at least she’s a woman”. When candidates were asked if they support a Prime Minister who is involved in dirty politics, he responded “absolutely”.
The MC raised concern about the Aro Valley Billboard Massacre, of which only Grant Robertson survived. Paul Foster-Bell and John Key’s severed heads were found in the Valley, Internet Mana was in a ditch and Colin Craig’s eyes were gouged out. None of the attendees could shed light on who was responsible.