Community & Environment

Council to host ‘all in’ mayoral debate

Hamilton City Council is to host a mayoral debate to encourage more people to get involved and vote in the upcoming local election.

And all mayoral candidates will be invited to participate in the debate.

The city is pulling out all stops to raise interest in the election after less than a third of all eligible Hamilton voters cast a ballot in 2016. So far, Hamilton is one of the only councils in New Zealand offering to host a mayoral debate at all, a point which irks Chief Executive Richard Briggs.

“Yes, we’re doing things differently this time round and I’m happy about that because what we have done in the past just hasn’t worked,” he says.

“Let’s face it. Voting levels nationwide are poor with less than half of eligible voters voting at all. But in the 2016 Hamilton election they were dismal – the lowest of all New Zealand cities. As a city, we need to do better.”

“Overall, interest in what we do is low despite the impact Council has on the everyday lives of every single person in this city. I’m very happy to ramp up the stakes a bit with election activities if that encourages people to be better informed and hopefully, vote.”

The city has already run a bus tour for candidates and developed a standalone election website putting the spotlight on all candidates. Earlier this month, it went out on a limb with a blunt pre-election report from Briggs highlighting five challenges for the city.

The strategy might be working. Already the number of Hamilton registered voters is up 6.2 per cent from the last election.

“We’re actively getting out there and engaging people in the business of Council and the mayoral debate is part of that wider effort,” Briggs says.

“This is a great opportunity for voters to see all the mayoral candidates in one place and hear directly what they have to say. That’s a good thing and I’m pleased Council has stepped up to facilitate it.”

The debate will be held at Claudelands on September 11 to coincide with one of Council’s Your Neighbourhood community engagement events where Council staff go into the community to discuss local issues.

This time the Your Neighbourhood event will also include a sectioned off area, for Council candidates to meet the public. All 41 candidates will be invited to the event dubbed the ‘Candidate Café’. The café will run from 4pm – 6.30pm when the mayoral debate starts.

Television journalist Mike McRoberts will moderate the event which is likely to involve a series of questions with the focus on challenges already outlined in the pre-election report. Candidates will not be given the questions prior.

“We wanted a moderator with a presence, who was non-partisan and able to make it an interesting hour and a half.”

Council staff will manage logistics but won’t be involved in facilitation of the debate on the night, Briggs said.

“All up the combined event has a budget of around $15,000 – about 14 cents for every eligible voter. I think that’s a pretty good investment given decisions councillors and the mayor will make over the next three years will impact our city for a very long time.”

Eight people are standing for the Hamilton mayoralty. They are James Casson, Jack Gielen, Louise Hutt, Andrew King, Lisa Lewis, Paula Southgate, Angela O’Leary and Mike West.

A series of other election events are also being organised independently of Council by community groups or organisations. Details of those events, plus candidate profiles and more are at www.yourcityelections.co.nz.

Hamilton City Mayoral Debate and Candidate Café
Wednesday 11 September 2019
Heaphy Rooms, Claudelands Events Centre

4pm – Candidate Café and Your Neighbourhood
6.30pm – Mayoral Debate

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