Upton-On-Line: Another day, another debate
Best question from John Campbell: Is Labour just National 'lite', or National 'low tar'?
Understatement of the night: member of the expert panel, Finlay MacDonald who said "I wouldn't call myself the average punter".
Projection of the evening: John Campbell to Jane Young, 'you should be a politician'.
Most incisive observation from Jenny Shipley: Helen Clark is constantly hand-wringing about the bottom of the heap and yet Labour is not proposing to change the benefit system one bit.
Most little commented upon fact that Mrs Shipley had to remind everybody of: for the first time in a decade the number of solo mothers on the DBP has come down this year.
Yesterday upton-on-line travelled to Alexandra and went for a ride in a jet boat down then back up the mighty and bloated Clutha River.
He was reassured by the driver who told him that if we hit a submerged log we would just bounce clean off it. Before leaving, assembled reporters had advised, hopefully, that they'd have a much better story if the boat didn't return.
The most enduring impression gained was the astonishing way these flood-damaged and weary people had picked themselves up and got back to work. But it is a community that has completely lost confidence in waiting 10 to 15 years to see if 'river flushing' can remove the silt that's clogging their gorge. They want Contact Energy to talk turkey and they won't be letting the government forget that it built the dam in the first place.
Meetings were held at the local district council. It was an unnerving experience as one's feet were constantly glued to the floor (the sodden carpet had been removed, leaving a bubble-gum like surface below).
An hour's car ride through strangely green, but ravaged countryside brought upton-on-line to Queenstown and Mayor Warren Cooper, who could be seen on the Kawerau river bridge, dressed casually in black and midnight grey, talking animatedly into a cell phone and looking like a Cabaret owner.
Upton-on-line was impressed by the way locals, while driving across the bridge, would wind their window down and express their views on various topics, with expletives undeleted, to an avuncular mayor who lapped it up.
This was real politics in a town where there are literally not enough workers to go round.