Rangitata candidates take to the stage in Ashburton

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Labour's Jo Luxton at the lectern during the Ashburton meet the candidates meeting.

Not a Party’s James Rae stole the Rangitata meet the candidates show last night with a humorous poem poking fun at his opponents.

The Ashburton bartender doesn’t really want to be our Member of Parliament, but the funny guy won over an audience of about 300 in the Ashburton Trust Event Centre. He was a bright spot on a mostly-serious night.

There are nine candidates standing in the electorate and all bar Advance NZ’s Aroha Maru were at the Ashburton meeting. They had a chance to speak and take a few questions.

National’s Megan Hands criticised Labour’s Jo Luxton for not knowing more about recent Government freshwater legislation that farmers say has unachievable targets.

Ms Hands said the legislation was unworkable and would have a massive affect on Mid Canterbury farmers and the district as a whole.

National would repeal or review the legislation, she said, especially when farming was keeping the country afloat in the wake of covid-19.

ACT candidate Hamish Hutton was called a right-wing fascist by one member of the audience, others asked questions around Pharmac funding for rare disorders, abortion and the new freshwater legislation.

The night was hosted by the Rotary Club of Ashburton and president Roger Letham said it was important the public get to see and hear from those wanting to represent them in Parliament.
They were courageous to put their hands up, he said.

Ms Hands said she had sat at the kitchen tables of hundreds of farmers and small business owners worried about increasing regulation, staff shortages and the search for solutions to environmental problems.
‘‘When things go well on the land, things go well in town.’’

The Greens’ Gerrie Ligtenberg touched on agricultural policies that included regenerative farming, but that got a lukewarm reception. Brannon Favel (Social Credit) and Grant Kelynack (NZ Outdoors Party) talked about their respective parties’ policies, but voting history shows it will be a National v Labour race in Rangitata.

Mrs Luxton said that after 24 years of living in the district, she remained committed to it. ‘‘I know the struggles people are facing. I see it firsthand, from getting staff or trying to navigate the immigration system.’’

She said she had worked hard behind the scenes in the past three years to make sure the district received Government money for rebuilding Ashburton College, hot pools at Methven and most recently $20 million for the Ashburton District Council’s new civic and library centre.

She met this week with Federated Farmers about the impact of the freshwater regulations locally and said changes might be coming. ‘‘It is not just a rural issue. It is urban too.’’

New Conservative’s Lachie Ashton said his party’s policy around the environment included investing in research and development to solve those problems, then selling that technology to the rest of the world.

Mr Hutton said ACT would sit down with farmers to talk environmental regulations. ‘‘We need to look after farmers and they are suffering big mental health issues. They don’t need a dumb piece of legislation dumped on them when the country is relying on them.’’