14 Sep 2023

Auckland central debate centres on housing, crime, homelessness

6:28 pm on 14 September 2023
Auckland Central Candidates Debate at Whammy Bar

The Auckland Central candidates debate at Whammy Bar, including (L-R) moderator Russell Brown, National's Mahesh Muralidhar, New Conservatives' Ted Johnston, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party's Chris Coker, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, TOP's Damian Sycamore, Labour's Oscar Sims and ACT's Felix Poole. Photo: Emma Stanford

Housing, crime and homelessness were top of the agenda at a lively candidates debate at a K Road bar in Auckland on Wednesday night.

Whammy Bar on Karangahape Road was packed with Auckland Central voters who live in an electorate with the highest rates of renters in the country.

The incumbent, the Greens' Chlöe Swarbrick, said she wanted people to have long-term rentals, with tenancies lasting an average of just 16 months.

"That is not a foundation for a stable life and if we want to look at all of those downstream impacts - on school non attendance, on crime, on people not being able to get into jobs and education - it is that constant mobility and churn, and that is disproportionately affecting the people in Auckland Central," she said.

National candidate Mahesh Maralidhar was questioned about his party's hardline stance on evicting unruly Kāinga Ora tenants.

He said there would always be some people who the system was not working for, and if they were making it so that others could not live there they would need to be evicted.

Labour's Oscar Sims went on the attack over National backing out of the medium-density residential standards regulations, a bipartisan effort they had championed alongside Labour to make it easier to build more intensive housing.

He said National's policy would make it more difficult to build new houses, particularly where they were needed.

Crime was also a hot topic.

Maralidhar laid out his promises to make the central city safer, pledging to ensure a downtown police station and to put more officers on the beat through Ponsonby Road, Karangahape Road and Queen Street.

"Did you know Auckland Central was one of the few areas in the country where police numbers plateaued or dropped over the last two years?" he said.

ACT's Felix Poole criticised Labour for its approach to crime, saying Labour only introduced a crime policy to respond with harsher penalties ahead of the election.

Swarbrick said it was crucial to have a break down on the kinds of crime the electorate is dealing with.

"Ram raids are entirely different to gun violence, are entirely different to anti-social behaviour, are entirely diferent to the concerns people have about homelessness and all of those require policies that are resourced meaningfully to address them," she said.

All the candidates got plenty of feedback from the animated audience who were still mulling over the latest polls showing National with a clear lead over Labour.

There will be another Auckland Central debate on 26 September.

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