IF YOU thought people weren't interested in local government you weren't at the Meet the Candidates forum in Maclean on Monday night.
The forum was the first of two to be held this week; the other is being held tonight at Grafton District Services Club.
About 200 people packed Maclean Services Club to hear what the 17 aspiring candidates had to say. Six are councillors. Ian Dinham, Ian Tiley and Pat Comben will retire at the election.
Daily Examiner editor Jenna Cairney adjudicated, putting a range of reader-contributed questions to the candidates.
Ms Cairney also asked candidates whether they were aligned to a political party.
Several admitted being a member of a party, while one said she has been a member of virtually every political party at some stage.
As expected though, all espoused the importance of taking a non-political approach to local government.
The candidates were split on coal-seam gas mining, with some totally against it and others calling for a rational debate.
On job creation, a few had ideas but none that seemed would generate large-scale employment.
When asked about their support of the local timber industry - an important local jobs provider - all candidates who had the opportunity to respond to the question said they supported its continuation; although environmentalist Greg Clancy made the comment that timber was "not the future".
Jim Simmons, on the other hand, spoke passionately about his father's career in the timber industry and the importance of it for local jobs.
A question on the flying foxes in Maclean aroused some passion in the audience and even a bit of humour from one.
Joy de Roos said the bats were not there when she attended Maclean High School and said they should be moved on.
But Greg Clancy was shot down in flames by the audience when he said records showed the flying foxes had been in the area for more than 100 years.
This was tempered with Jeremy Challacombe's tongue-in-cheek comment that bats were a delicacy in some countries and there could be an opportunity for a new local industry packaging and exporting flying foxes.
>> Watch speeches from the Daily Examiner meet the candidates night in the videos above.