New date for candidates’ night

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Ashburton’s meet the candidates night has been postponed to September 30.

The night is being organised by the Rotary Club of Ashburton and president Rodger Letham said it was hoped all the candidates standing in the Rangitata electorate would be at the meeting.

It will be held in Ashburton Trust Event Centre and the club is hoping covid restrictions will have eased to Alert Level 1 by then.

The eight standing so far for the Rangitata seat are Labour’s Jo Luxton (currently a serving list MP), National’s Megan Hands (who replaced Andrew Falloon as the party’s candidate), ACT’s Hamish Hutton, New Conservatives’ Lachie Ashton, Green Party’s Gerrie Ligtenberg, Social Credit’s Brannon Favel, the Outdoors Party’s Grant Kelynack and James Rae of Not A Party.

Nominations for party candidates close on September 18, so it is possible there will be more.

The candidates meeting was to have been on August 26, but covid restrictions at Alert Level 2 would have limited audience numbers. Auckland has been in Alert Level 3 after a new outbreak; government plans to review the restrictions in the coming days.

The format for the candidates night has been set and each of the eight will have seven minutes speaking time, plus several minutes to take questions. The speaking order will be drawn on stage on the night.

There will be at least 30 minutes at the end for more questions from the audience. Organisers are hoping to fill the event centre.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has postponed the general election to October 17 after the new cases forced the suspension of political campaigning. Gatherings over 100 are banned in level 2.

Mr Letham said he had never experienced an election build-up like this year’s where the country was in the midst of a significant unforeseen event, like the pandemic.

The Electoral Commission is now in the process of confirming voting places and making sure the 25,000 people needed to work at election time are still available.

The commission had always planned to run the election, originally on September 18, as if New Zealand was at Alert Level 2 with contract tracing, hand sanitiser and physical distancing in voting places.

Advance voting will begin on October 3. Preliminary results on election day will be released progressively from 7pm.

Preliminary results of the end of life and cannabis referendums will be released on October 30.