This is the famously ‘most fun’ candidates forum in Wellington, in the Green heart of Te Aro. It was an awesome night, the chairs were full half an hour before the stated starting time of 7.30pm, and by the time the candidates had all arrived, there was no standing room, and a build-up of late-comers hanging on the ramp outside the huge windows (all opened fully) peering in and listening to the speakers with assistance from the sound system courtesy of local Aro events manager Martin Wilson.
The Candidates speaking were Grant Robertson (L), the sitting MP; Paul Foster-Bell (N); James Shaw (G); Stephen Whittington (ACT); Gynn Rickerby from the Pirate Party, who spoke first as he had to leave for family reasons; Reagan Cutting (Libertarianz); Laurence Boomert from New Economics Party; and the perennial Michael Appleby (ACLP), who is always such a good showman, and well-liked by Aro residents and regulars.
There was a sausage sizzle, popcorn, warm spiced orange juice, macaroons, and eventually mulled wine, all at ‘gold coin’ prices to support the Aro Valley Community Centre; the half-time break saw much chatting and slurping of various cups of beverages, and popcorn chomping.
The questions from the floor were articulate and engaging, asking Labour whether they had any policies to announce that weren’t stolen from the Greens (Grant responded with a list of prior policy launches that were ‘all their own work’), and a few goes at getting Paul to respond on sticky issues, which he pretty much dodged using the Party-approved phrases, deviating only once when asked if he supported gay marriage and gay adoption. (He does.)
James made some excellent capital out of responses to questions directed at other parties, throwing out replies that covered pretty much every policy angle the Greens own, while emphasizing the core three issues of jobs, clean rivers, and child poverty reduction.
The rest were pretty much repeating the same sentences I’ve heard on the past two nights on the Welli campaign trail, with Whittington in particular sounding like a stuck record. Appleby answered every question with a reference to industrial hemp as the wonder agricultural product of the future, saving exports, tourism, and leading to biofuels advances, all of which was received with good humour by a jovial crowd.
The audience were mostly happy and raucous, the timing of speeches was kept strictly, and enforced by water-pistols in time-honoured fashion, while a little girl held sway over the vuvuzela to sound when the speeches ran out of time; this is my home suburb, my favourite place to talk about politics, my favourite event of any election year, and this year as ever Aro Valley did themselves proud.
So, astonishingly, I am going to post a link from stuff, ‘cos they actually did quite a good write-up here, complete with some video shot during the meeting. Enjoy. Welcome to the vibe of ma ‘hood.