CANDIDATES pulled no punches last night, as seven potential lord mayors fielded questions on council amalgamations, Hunter Street, cost-cutting and council processes.
The contenders for the top civic job faced about 400 residents at the Newcastle Lord Mayoral Forum, organised by the Newcastle Institute and the Newcastle Herald.
Debate was often heated as candidates presented some often conflicting visions for the city.
To hear each candidate's opening address to the forum, click on the link below:
Candidate Jacqueline Haines, a Stockton resident and outsider in the field, summed up the mood: "Do you want infighting, because it's already started before we've come to the table."
Prominent businessman and developer Jeff McCloy was booed by some members of the crowd while responding to criticism from Labor and the Greens.
"If I have to hear [Greens candidate John Sutton] talk once more . . . about the community, I think I'll throw up," Mr McCloy said.
"The community isn't 100 placard-waving smelly individuals.
"If you make decisions for 100 people and you don't make them for the whole city, you don't deserve the job as mayor."
Earlier Mr Sutton had called on Mr McCloy to publicly disclose the sum of money he had spent on the campaign, the properties he owns in Newcastle, and the extent to which he had financed the visits of "climate change deniers".
"I can't recall a previous council election where we have faced the prospect that one particularly wealthy candidate may effectively be buying the election," Mr Sutton said.
The candidates were split about whether the council should move to cut costs or invest in social and cultural services.
Cr Nuatali Nelmes, the Labor candidate, said facilities were "built to be shared, not sold".
She said Labor would defend child care, parks, pools, libraries and other community services.
"We need to get the key infrastructure right," Cr Nelmes said.
Cr Aaron Buman said he would cut costs, including libraries, and that the city should brace for "pain and a lot of pain" under his leadership.
"The budget has to be balanced," Cr Buman said.
"I call it the yellow pages policy, council should stop doing things you can get from the private sector."
Candidates spoke about the need for a new process to engage with the community.
Bryan Havenhand said the council's culture needed to change.
"Council has built a structure for itself, it's like a fortress and the longer they can keep the community out the better," Mr Havenhand said.
"I think there is a structural problem, a systemic problem that needs addressing."
Mr Sutton said the next council must be "seriously engaged" with the community.
Mr McCloy said decisive action was needed to improve the built form of the CBD.
"People don't go to businesses or do business when things are run down," he said.
Cr Buman said he wanted lower Hunter councils to amalgamate, Cr Nelmes said she supported voluntary amalgamations and Mr Havenhand said the idea had merits.
Col Peebles said he would not support any moves to amalgamate councils.
"I don't think it's a sensible idea if you haven't got your own house in order," he said.
Online betting agency Sportsbet has framed a market for the Newcastle lord mayoral race.
Mr McCloy is the favourite at $2.20, followed by Cr Buman at $3 and Cr Nelmes at $3.50.
A bet on Mr Peebles will return $8, Mr Sutton is paying $12, Jacqueline Haines is at $26 and Mr Havenhand is considered the outsider at $41.