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The 50-plus age group proved its pulling power at one of the biggest gatherings of electoral candidates to take place in Central Otago.

Six political parties and 10 candidates faced a packed hall of seasoned voters last week.

Reporter Simon Henderson took a front row seat.

The order of parties was assigned randomly at a candidates meeting organised by Grey Power at St Aidan’s Anglican Church in Alexandra.

Each candidate was allocated five minutes to speak and took two questions with an open question session at the end.

Jacqui Dean (National, Waitaki) said National would invest in people with “across-the-board tax cuts” and “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Joseph Mooney (National, Southland) said his personal experience of free market reforms in the 1980s that affected his parent’s farm informed his candidacy.

“The reality for my family was we didn’t have food.”

Taking care of the primary sector at this time would be important, otherwise “a lot of people will go hungry”, he said.

Heather Meri Pennycook (Advance New Zealand, Waitaki) said it was time to “stop the bus” and avoid the “lack of hope”.

“I have seen the way rural communities are being strangled, their services are being removed.”

Robert Wilson (Advance New Zealand, Southland) said the Government’s Covid-19 response was a “bold attack” on freedoms and questioned if the nation had gone “over the tipping point” into “almost communist rule”.

His comment that Covid-19 was “nothing more than the average flu” drew a strong reaction from the audience.

Anthony Odering (New Zealand First, Waitaki) said the “elephant in the room” was the world crisis that was the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is nonsense to say it is just a flu”.

The country needed to “look after our people first” by having secure borders until a vaccine was available.

Jon Mitchell (Labour, Southland) said his experience in local and central government as well as experience in disaster response recovery was an advantage at this time.

“This region needs mature, reliable and experienced representation,” he said.

Liam Wairepo (Labour, Waitaki) acknowledged the Grey Power audience by speaking about ageism in the workforce, equal access to healthcare, and digital literacy.

“We need to be supporting our most vulnerable people.”

Sampsa Kiuru (The Green Party, Waitaki) said “finding balance” was part of his role as a doctor at Dunstan Hospital, and “finding balance as a planet” was one reason he was standing for the Greens.

“We really need to fund a sustainable balance to have a fair, clean, safe environment for our children.”

David Kennedy (The Green Party, Southland) echoed this, saying “greens are a healthy choice” and supported helping farming “to a more sustainable, high-value model”.

Robert Andrews (Act New Zealand, Taieri) said he was standing in for Act Waitaki candidate Sean Beamish.

He said Act would repeal this year’s Arms Legislation Act, saying “democracy was trodden on” by the Government.

Reducing government red tape was one of the main aims of his party.

“Let businesses flourish and try to get productivity up so we have all got a better future.”