COMMENT:

Local government politics just isn't as sexy as the thrill of the Beehive, I get that.

But on a recent trip to Indonesia I found myself lying on a beach, sipping a beer, and reading a paper scheduled to be tabled before Wellington City councillors on a $6.4 billion transport plan.

That's how much I love local government.

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People tend to raise their eyebrows skeptically when I declare my passion for the subject and want to know why a person in their mid-20s would say such a thing.

Well, here's why.

The biggest reason people should care about what goes on at a local government level is that decisions made there have such an immediate effect on daily life.

When Wellington City Council voted to charge for weekend parking, 10 days later people were adding $5 to their Saturday morning avocado smash price tag.

Now that might seem inconsequential, but it's an example of the swift power local government wields.

When the decisions are those of greater magnitude, the effect of getting them wrong can be devastating.

Nothing exemplifies why people should care about local government more than Wellington's bus fiasco.

Catching the bus should be a mundane part of daily life but Greater Wellington Regional Council's (GWRC) handling of the new network rollout made it the stuff of nightmares.

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The "bustastrophe" was quite the wakeup call for some Wellingtonians that GWRC actually existed and had responsibilities.

The possibility that might translate to a higher voter turnout this year is probably the only good thing to come out of the rollout disaster.

Another reason people should care about local government is money.

Sure, rates don't bring in the same sort of dollars as tax but people should take an interest in where their hard-earned cash is going.

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter for Newstalk ZB and the New Zealand Herald. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter for Newstalk ZB and the New Zealand Herald. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Wellingtonians elected a mayor who pushed to get a $179 million Convention Centre across the line, with ratepayers footing the bill for the lion's share.

While some people support it, others have labelled it a vanity project in the midst of a number of council construction project budget blowouts.

But it's no good just whinging about not wanting more of the same, you actually have to go out and vote.

If your vote doesn't end up with the majority, I'm sorry it didn't work out. But at least you can spend the next three years with a licence to whinge because you actually voted.

The relationship elected members in local government have with voters is personal, and presents an opportunity to be regularly involved in democratic processes.

In council meetings there's dedicated time for public participation before councillors address business for that day. Members of the general public have politicians' undivided attention to make their case about issues they care about.

For many communities across New Zealand the Beehive is hundreds of kilometres away in Wellington, but the local council buildings are right at the heart of their town centre.

Candidate nominations for local body elections open today, so go on, look them up as they announce they're running and see what they have to say.