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Four of the major political parties discussed their policies on social issues at a Tauranga election forum this week.

Angie Warren Clark (Labour), Todd Muller (National), Trisha Lawrence (NZ First) and Josh Cole (Green) dealt with rapid-fire questions on how they would deal with everything from mental health and disability to the economy and jobs.

Representatives from the Outdoors Party, TOP and Advance NZ also attended.

The candidates were asked about the three reasons people should vote for them. Warren Clark said not leaving anyone behind, her real-life experience in the social sector and knowing the city.

Muller said he grew up in the city and the government had not understood its historical paradigm change, he would be an effective advocate for the city and his recent personal issues had made him more empathetic.

Lawrence said she had fallen in love with sociology and was driven to be in the area. The “journey of the last 30 years” had not gone well for everyone.

Cole said he was born with autism, and social reforms had put the country in a sticky situation. He had studied sustainable horticulture and was aware the government prioritised the economy over social and environmental issues.

Warren Clark was concerned at the affordability of Tauranga and its underbelly. There were issues with meth and family violence, more social housing was needed and it was the fastest growing but ninth least affordable city.

Muller said the housing system was broken, and needs were constrained by the RMA. Social housing hadn’t worked. There were many jobs available but many who couldn’t find employment.

Cole said the general minimum income NZ First planned would provide $325 a week, with a wealth tax for those worth over $1 million.

Lawrence said a social service accord needed to be created to shift funding to the top of the cliff. There needed to be a joint venture delivering cross party care for children in care.

Warren Clark said the social sector needed to unionise to improve pay parity and ensure a fair deal, and work across all of government to find solutions to poverty.

Muller said he was focused on funding outcomes but there was not a simple solution.

Reducing child poverty would need support for parents and retraining, as social issues didn’t happen in silos, Lawrence said. NZ First would reintroduce the Family Benefit.

Warren Clark said there was much work to do in increasing household income and decreasing the cost of living. Labour had increased the minimum wage, provided the winter energy payment, free targeted training, wage subsidies during Covid-19, increased benefits and paid parental leave but Labour needed more time.

Muller said the nation couldn’t “spend its way out of the economy” and the economy had to be lifted off its knees, stimulating and investing in small businesses. There was an appetite for people to consider cross party ideas, he said.

The candidates answered question from the 40-strong crowd about youth mental health, new jobs, social housing, changing the economic system, funding for the disabled sector and abatement rates for beneficiaries.