If you thought this was another article about Tauranga's non-elected Commissioners you're correct. But I'd encourage you to read on.
I'm not going to try to persuade you they should stay, although I think they should. I'm going to encourage you to think about why.
I was surprised to hear two of the main candidates in the recent byelection answer "go".
When pressed to elaborate, their response was brief – it's undemocratic. The candidate voting "stay" responded with something like "it's because they're doing great things for our city."
As a former political science student turned public lawyer, I'd argue it's far too simplistic to suggest that appointing rather than electing our representatives is undemocratic.
When asked what democracy is, most people think of voting. That's one type of democratic system, known as representative democracy, which New Zealand shares with most modern democracies.
But various different systems enable democratic decision-making.
A democratic decision is one informed by the general community will. The ancient Greeks were onto something, preferring "direct democracy" where the community made direct decisions on policy initiatives rather than through elected representatives.
They also selected rather than voted for their representatives, who were vetted for capability. This avoided factions arising and stuff got done.
My experience of Tauranga's Commissioners is that they are intensely interested in what the community wants, thinks, and needs. They want to leave a legacy that the community has influenced, rather than something imposed upon us.
Their extensive consultation on the Long Term Plan and City Centre initiatives demonstrates their commitment to listening.
Consultation is required by law, along with other requirements to ensure our decision makers are held accountable. Consultation is a crude form of direct democracy.
But technology allows the community to be directly polled on issues of importance – a form of issues-based referendum. In that way, political power is devolved from representatives back to the individual. Citizens Assemblies are currently being trialled in New Zealand.
For example Watercare's deliberative democracy process, which will enable decisions to be made together with its customers about the long-term future of Auckland's water supply.
Are these radical ideas? No. The Government is currently considering them as part of its review of the future of local government. It's looking at co-design and participatory democracy approaches to the development of council strategies, policies and programmes.
What's gone wrong? Our elected representatives aren't typically representative of our communities. There's little incentive to stand for Council.
Councillors become worn down by personal politics and inability to implement real change.
WBOPDC's Generation Change campaign is aimed at ensuring a more representative group of people stand for council.
We may not be ready to ditch elections entirely, but here's one idea.
Key sectors nominate candidates with relevant technical expertise eg. planning, infrastructure, policy.
These would be competitively remunerated positions reflecting skills and experience. One person from each discipline would be voted in by the community.
A further equal number from the general community would be elected to represent different communities of interest (including Māori) – similar to the current wards.
Throw in an independent chair to run meetings, and we may have a hybrid model with the right balance of technical skills and community voice.
But for now, let's keep those Commissioners on a bit longer and see what they can do.
• Mary Hill is a resource management lawyer and partner at Cooney Lees Morgan.