WATER security, power policy, job creation and climate change dominated the first public forum to feature all of New England's candidates.
Almost 500 people packed out the Tamworth Town Hall last night to hear from the eight hopefuls, who fielded questions from the audience, which were pre-selected by Tamworth Business Chamber.
Independent Adam Blakester, who has a background in renewables, said the government had failed on energy.
"The CSG and coal industries are peddling their own interests," Mr Blakester said.
"We need to move to renewables, that's the cheapest form of new power."
Fellow independent Rob Taber, who owns New England solar, said the upgrade of the nation's electricity grid was a must.
"I've been saying for a long time, unless we fix it, we can't move forward with solar and wind," Mr Taber said.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce said his policy was to have a proper mix of energy, "both renewables and baseload power".
Greens candidate Tony Lonergan made it clear climate change was his main priority.
"If we don't deal with climate change, solutions to all other issues are just rearranging the deck chairs," Mr Lonergan said.
Climate change was referred to multiple times throughout the debate, and candidates were asked specifically asked if they thought it was an "urgent issue".
All agreed, except for United Australia Party candidate Cindy Duncan, who said the topic had been "weaponised", and Mr Joyce who was unclear on his answer.
"We have to work on an international basis, we won't make a difference by ourselves," Mr Joyce said.
"However, we have signed [the Paris Agreement] and we should honour it."
Mr Lonergan's suggestion of wide-scale water recycling was met with a loud applause.
"Most big cities in Europe do it, and so should we," he said.
Mr Joyce said he had secured $75m for the upgrade of Dungowan Dam, which may now be used on another water project, but he was concerned the money would be reallocated under a Labor government.
Labor's Yvonne Langenberg, independent Natasha Ledger and Mr Joyce agreed a university in Tamworth would attract more young professionals to the region, while Mr Taber wants UNE funded to do more research and development.
Mr Blakester and Ms Langenberg said there were huge job opportunities in renewables and New England should push to become a training hub for the industry.
Womens' issues also featured prominently.
Mr Blakester promised if elected, he would peg his wage at the average Australian womens' and use the rest of the money to fund forums, seeking community views on big issues.