10 Aug 2023

Crime a hot topic for Auckland Central's political candidates

9:25 am on 10 August 2023

From left: The Opportunities Party candidate Damian Sycamore, National candidate Mahesh Muralidhar, Labour candidate Oscar Sims and the Green Party's Chloe Swarbrick. Photo:

Crime, housing and transport were the hot topics at Wednesday night's political debate in Auckland Central.

Electoral candidates from Labour, National, Green and The Opportunities Party slugged it out at the altar of St Matthew-in-the-City church.

National candidate Mahesh Muralidhar dived headfirst into crime.

"It's not on good terms that we're meeting," he told the audience.

"Over the last two weeks, four people were killed in shootings through the city.

"There's a crime wave cutting through, and people are feeling more and more anxious."

Muralidhar criticised Labour's handling of ram-raids and shootings in the city, but Labour candidate Oscar Sims said National could not do any better.

"Compare our record to the National Party's record," Sims said.

"The last term that National was in government, police funding went down.

"They can talk a big game when they're out of power about how much they're going to do on law and order, but they're not credible once they get onto the Treasury benches and are actually in government."

Green candidate and incumbent MP Chlöe Swarbrick said it was not as simple as hiring more police or dishing out harsher sentences.

"Let's have a grown-up conversation about that," Swarbrick said.

"When I speak to our district (police) commander, they are incredibly up-front about the fact that they are responding to crime and they cannot tend to the avalanche of social issues that are producing these issues in the first place."

The Opportunities Party candidate Damian Sycamore brought housing issues into the debate.

He said a land tax would push owners to sell or develop their properties and prevent land banking.

"You cannot build affordable housing, or buy it, if the value of land stays as stratospherically high as it is currently in New Zealand," Sycamore said.

Mahesh Muralidhar defended National's scrapping of Medium Density Residential Standards.

"It's not right to say we aren't for intensification, we absolutely are," Muralidhar said.

"The changes we've made, like so many things we are doing and we are going to do to move this country forward, is we do it with the community."

But Sims said without higher density housing, young Aucklanders would be forced to the city's edges.

"We do not have a realistic prospect of being able to own our own homes, unless we build more housing in Auckland," Sims said.

"Mahesh wants to build new housing on prime, fertile land out in South Auckland. Ugly subdivisions that are miles away from work."

On transport, Swarbrick tore into Labour's plan to build a tunnel through Te Waitemata as an alternative to the harbour bridge.

She said the tunnel would cause more congestion and pollution.

More roads were not the solution to Auckland's transport problems, she said.

Instead, Swarbrick supported investing in public transport and cycleways, which would free up space on the roads for drivers, she said.

"I find it absolutely mind-blowing that we have the prime minister on national television saying that we don't have a money tree, but apparently money grows on roads.

"Because we can announce tens of billions of dollars for roading projects without putting forward any meaningful plan for revenue raising to pay for it," Swarbrick said.

Labour's Sims defended the policy.

"We are adding this additional link across the harbour, because there are resilience concerns," he said.

"When it rains slightly, or when it's slightly windy in the city, the harbour bridge shuts down and that shuts down the entire city, so there are strong resilience arguments when it comes to constructing an additional link across the harbour."

Swarbrick remained a popular choice with the audience.

"I took away a lot of good points from Chlöe Swarbrick, I thought she was really eloquent," said one first-time voter.

Some were unimpressed by Labour or National.

"They didn't seem very well-researched or informed on the things they were talking about," one audience member said.

Muralidhar "was straight out of Silicon Valley," said another. "I bet he drives a Ferrari."

The Opportunities Party's housing policies struck a chord, even if the voter couldn't remember Sycamore's name.

"The people who resonated most strongly were Chlöe and the... housing TOP person," said an attendee after the debate.

Voters will pick their favourites when voting in the General Election from the 2 October.

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