30 Nov 2022

Hamilton West by-election: Crime and cost of living top of mind for voters

5:20 am on 30 November 2022
Western Hamilton Community Centre manager Neil Tolan.

Western Hamilton Community Centre manager Neil Tolan says locals are most concerned about vehicle theft. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

A Hamilton city councillor is predicting voter fatigue with the forthcoming Hamilton West by-election.

Community leaders said most people were more concerned about getting by day to day than worrying about an election that did not affect who was in power.

Their issues were common to most of the country, they said.

Western Hamilton Community Centre is in the heart of the Hamilton West electorate.

Manager Neil Tolan said there was no excitement around the by-election, because people were more focused on every day issues, such as the cost of living, housing and crime.

Tolan believed vehicle theft was top of the list.

''Cars are going missing. For people that is a real big inconvenience. People are waking up to go to work or drop the kids off at school and they go out and the car is gone.''

He believed one way of getting on top of crime was for police to bring back community constables.

''He had the pulse of the community. He knew the children, he knew the youth, he knew what was bubbling away. He knew the shopkeepers, he would go in there and they might say, 'oh I had that little guy in the white shirt' and he would know who that guy is," Tolan said.

"It is [about] working together and I feel that is part of the community we have really lacked over the past eight years.''

Police always responded to call-outs, but it was not the same as an officer being in the community full-time, Tolan said.

One issue in Hamilton West was the growing level of poverty, he said.

''I know people who work 40 hours a week or more and there is just not enough money to pay the rent, pay the power, buy some groceries, have a bit of fun. I am a big advocate of the living wage.''

Aid agency St Vincent de Paul manager Mike Rolton.

Aid agency St Vincent de Paul manager Mike Rolton says the community, like most of New Zealand, is facing a "smorgasbord of problems". Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Across in Frankton, aid agency St Vincent de Paul runs an op shop, food bank and other community services.

Manager Mike Rolton has been there for 13 years.

''Seven years ago, we probably did less than 200 family food parcels a year. This year, we are close to 5000.''

He was pretty bleak about the how next 18 months would be for the cost of living, "if the fuel goes up in January which it is supposed to".

"Power poverty is another huge thing that affects people. People in emergency housing and the ram raids - all those things that combine like a smorgasbord of problems [are] going to really impact New Zealanders and our traditional way of life.''

Rolton was not sure it mattered who got elected in Hamilton West.

''If National got in in the next election, all they are going to do is inherit a lot of problems that have been created. Whether Labour can move forward depends on how the [by-election] goes.

"I don't think there is going to be a party that is going to hold complete power like it is now.''

Waikato Chamber of Commerce head Don Good was in no doubt what issues were facing the voters.

Hamilton City Councillor Louise Hutt.

Hamilton City Councillor Louise Hutt. Photo: Supplied

''Crime is paramount for all of the aspirants ... but then followed by roading, pot holes, the cost of living, education is important.

"I think they have nailed the issues that Hamilton West voters and business people are interested in.''

Louise Hutt is a newly elected city councillor representing the Hamilton West ward.

''I think Hamilton West voters really want a high functioning MP to represent them in parliament and to make sure they are putting the issues facing Hamilton West right at the forefront of everything that is going on and all of the decisions that are being made because we have challenges, you know, just like everywhere else.''

She believes there may be a bit of voter fatigue in the electorate.

''Just had a local government election with a ward of the same name is slightly confusing as well but I certainly hope people take up the opportunity to get involved in our democratic process and meet the candidates and talk with them and figure out who is best to represent us.''

Early voting is under way and polling day is on 10 December.

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