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Saved by the bell? Not likely, as candidates go on and on

Nov 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features

ORGANISERS of a meeting of Mana election candidates should have taken a leaf out of the Aro Valley candidates meeting – and armed themselves with water pistols.

Over-zealous speakers ignored (or didn’t get) the bell to say they were out of time, and the education forum meeting at Whitireia Polytechnic – aimed at giving political candidates a chance to hear and respond to education issues – ran at least an hour over time.

Some of the audience started leaving before it was over.

Not long after the first group had left, the Greens’ Michael Gilchrist excused himself, with an explanation about childcare obligations.

National candidate Hekia Parata was next to bow out. Perhaps the runner and triathlete had a training partner to cycle around Titahi Bay with, or maybe, like the rest of the audience, she was just bored.

Earlier, presentations from eight Mana teachers and principals sang the praises of Labour-led education initiatives.

It took a long time to get through, but the candidates got their payback, as they so often do, by simply ignoring the time constraints.

Hekia Parata, a newcomer to the Mana electorate, was the stand-out performer of the evening. So much so, Act candidate Mike Collins advised the audience to give their party vote to Act, but their electorate vote to Parata.

Highly energised and a confident speaker, she will give the seasoned sitting member, Labour’s Winnie Laban, a run for her money.

Clearly sensing the audiences’ waning attention, Mrs Parata directed them to the National Party website: “We recognise the importance of technology. I’m not going to talk about our policies. Our website is www.national.org.nz”.

This was welcome news to the audience, who had been shifting uncomfortably in their seats and looking at watches for almost three hours.

The purpose of such forums being held so close to an election is to allow the voters to educate themselves more on those who are asking us to trust them again, or to give a vote to change.

Rather, it seemed, the evening was about party policies, something that Mrs Parata pointed out are available on the internet.

Unfortunately, not all candidates were as 21st century as Mrs Parata. The Kiwi Party candidate, Renton McLaughlin, was neither interesting, energised nor informative, coming across as the electorate’s Mr Doom and Gloom. All he lacked was a sandwich board with the words “The End Is Nigh”.

Little he said was relevant to a forum on education, though he did climb onto the moral high ground to preach on the lack of virtue displayed by the female teacher who moonlighted as a prostitute.

At this point, one man turned and asked when the bell would be rung to signal the end of Mr McLaughlin’s time.

Libererianz candidate Richard Goode probably said what voters wanted to hear most: “Something is terribly wrong with the education system, because by now people should know that when the bell rings, you stop talking.”

PICTURE: Hekia Parata declined when asked for a photograph. She asked if she could email one to be used instead.

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is convinced that this image does her no justice. She is marginally better looking in real life. At least her Mum thinks so.
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