The state of local government today is just as much the fault of voters as it is the politicians.
People love to whine about how incompetent the council is, but this attitude is starting to wear thin.
The survival of local government requires us to be engaged now more than ever before and we need our elected representatives to actually represent us in a meaningful way.
It's about time councillors, mayors, and their kingdoms formed a united front in the face of central government's strong centralisation agenda.
Because as the saying goes, you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Right now smaller councils around the country are seeing their very existence called into question between three waters reforms, changes to resource management, planning rules dictated from the Beehive, and a review into the future of local government.
I fully acknowledge councils don't have a particularly strong case to fight back on many of these changes.
Pipes burst left right and centre in the capital and the more dramatic events have resulted in wastewater spewing into the harbour, not to mention a 24-hour sludge trucking operation.
It's the decision-making of councils through their district plans and giving people too much say on where housing can go, or rather not go, that's partly to blame for the crisis we're in today.
Councils should rightfully be criticised for their lack of action.
But I think ratepayers have just as much to answer for. The people who lead these councils don't magically appear from nowhere, we decide to put them there.
When I say ratepayers, I mean everyone who is eligible to vote, because you can be assured rates very much affect those who are not homeowners by way of rent hikes.
The problem is that increasingly fewer people are deciding to have a say in who ends up around council tables. In 2019 voter turnout was just 42.2 per cent.
We literally pay these people to make decisions on our behalf and I can't help but wonder if there was better engagement in local government, whether such poor decisions would have been made in the first place.
Council hopefuls have not campaigned on low or zero rates increases for their own benefit, I'm sure they would love some more cash to splash on pet projects.
They've campaigned on it because potential voters don't like being hit with big bills in their letterboxes.
Candidates have also been criticised for campaigning on bright and shiny new things with any money they are pitching to spend, instead of maintaining core infrastructure.
Why? Because it's an easy way to win votes.
The state of local government is a joint failure driven by candidates and voters who are stuck in a vicious cycle.
So, allow me to make the case for local government and why people should care about it.
The council makes decisions which affect your everyday life, the things that you often forget about, until something goes wrong.
Things like the bus network, the rubbish and recycling, the maintenance of local roads, the water you drink from the tap, the cost of parking in town, library opening hours, and local swimming pools.
The effect of council decision making on any of these services is swift and immediate, rather than a decision from the Beehive taking an age to trickle down through layers of bureaucracy.
People often share closer and more personal relationships with their ward councillors than their local MPs.
Council buildings are usually at the heart of communities and feel like a more direct line to decision making than Parliament, which for many New Zealanders is hundreds of kilometres away.
The intimacy of local government is its charm.
So, it's frustrating that despite these people having so much influence on the way we experience our everyday lives, we have become increasingly disengaged.
As a result, candidates have been left to their own devices to try and win votes whether that's being backed by a famous filmmaker or making elaborate promises which compromise core services.
It's also left the minority of people who are engaged with council to have the loudest voices. Is it any wonder the levers for housing densification have not been pulled for so many years?
Local government should and can be better, but that starts with voters showing an interest and articulating what is important to them.
Candidates must then meet this in an intelligent and transparent way. Rates increases are not necessarily the enemy for example, especially if council hopefuls can clearly explain the trade-offs and what that money will be used for.
It takes two to tango and we need local government on the dance floor.
• Senior Wellington journalist Georgina Campbell's fortnightly column looks closely at issues in the capital.