Candidates get a grilling

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Putting up their hands...Election candidates who spoke at a Gore meeting on Monday night are (back from left) Robert Wilson, Jon Mitchell, David Kennedy and Joshua Gunn and (front left) Fiona Meyer and Joseph Mooney. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

He may be too young to vote but that did not stop Luke Thomson attending a “meet the political candidates” evening.

The 17-year-old was one of about 60 people who braved a snowy night to come to the meeting chaired by Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks at the Gore and Districts Memorial RSA on Monday.

Luke said he came to find out more about the people who had put themselves forward to represent the electorate.

“It’s good to be informed about things.”

He found the experience interesting.

“There’s a fairly reasonable amount of competence there.”

Advance New Zealand’s Robert Wilson, the Green Party’s David Kennedy, Labour’s Jon Mitchell, National’s Joseph Mooney, New Conservative’s Fiona Meyer, who are standing for the Southland electorate, and New Zealand First’s Joshua Gunn, who is standing for the Invercargill electorate, were given five minutes to introduce themselves to the audience.

After that, Mr Hicks invited questions from the audience.

Candidates answered questions about topics including education, finance and abortion.

Mr Hicks asked the candidates for their perspective on how to deal with organised crime, which in part was connected to the sale of methamphetamine (P) in the community.

Mr Mooney said his party had a two-fold approach “more resourcing to approach those importing the drugs and then more resourcing around those using the drugs”.

Mr Gunn said his party planned to recruit 1000 more police officers.

“[This] will enable us to get even further ahead of the gangs and the supply chain.

“On the other side we believe that more needs to be invested treating P addiction .. as a health condition and not just a crime.”

Mr Kennedy said it was important to consider what influenced people to commit crime and take drugs.

“We have to look at the causes of a lot of these issues,” he said.

Low wages and poor mental health were two factors that needed to be addressed, Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Mitchell said increasing the number of police to deal with the problem was like the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff situation”.

“We need to work in our communities so our young people have hope,” Mr Mitchell said.

“It starts right at the beginning so people get the right messages and get the right support and get a hand to go in the right direction.”

Mr Wilson said it was important to have better border controls to keep drugs out.

“We’re not going to stop it all but we can reduce the volumes that are coming in.”

Those organising the crime needed to be dealt with.

“We need to be facilitating our law enforcement to be able to deal with the gangs,” Mr Wilson said.

Mrs Meyer said 90% of those in prison had grown up in fatherless homes.

“That is the root cause of a lot of social issues,” Mrs Meyer said.

“New Conservative are committed to supporting the family.”