Voting is a no brainer for me. If you vote, you can have your say. If you choose not to vote, or just can't be bothered, then you better not moan around me in the future.
Our city. Our voices. Our people. Our future.
For over the past nine weeks Rotorua, Tauranga and the rest of the Bay of Plenty have been decorated by slogans and signs of confident passionate people who are brave enough to put up their hands to help make a difference in our region.
I have listened to advertising campaign slogans and speeches, read the newspaper stories around our council election debates, got to know the candidates and what they stand for and how they see our cities moving forward in the future.
I must confess – I do critique the candidates' billboards by how aesthetically pleasing they are to read. While this won't change or determine my voting choices, signs that are hard to read or too "busy" don't stand out quite as much as those that are bold, concise, colour-co-ordinated and smart.
I take my hat off to each and every one of the candidates who has stepped up to stand out. While change is sometimes scary, it is vital that we keep moving forward. I know I would not want to be a councillor and so I have the utmost respect for those running for council.
Imagine for a minute if no one stood, if no one cared enough to put their name forward. Who would run our city then? So when I hear people moaning about council election candidates for no other reason than to slag a candidate off I will call them out for it. You don't have to agree with a candidate's viewpoint or vision to be able to respect them for giving it a try!
I cannot believe the amount of online questioning around candidates concerning things in their lives completely irrelevant to the proposed job they want to do.
I have seen ageist comments – regardless of a candidate's age, the ideas and passion they can bring, while maybe not matching another candidate's experience can offer fresh ideas and a new perspective on issues in our city.
Racial comments around candidates' ethnicity is completely shocking in this day and age. Personal circumstance, upbringing, and work / life experience will all be completely different for each candidate and what they bring to the election table will reflect this.
Jane Trask: Why I still drive a big SUV despite rising fuel prices
Jane Trask: Housing tenants in motels - how did it get to this?
Jane Trask: How do we move forward in face of measles outbreak?
So what are my tips for voting?
Firstly get to know your candidates and what they stand for personally. Who speaks to you as a person and matches your beliefs, ideas and vision for our city? Who do you find approachable? Who speaks passionately and confidently but also actually has something to say? Confident and rhetoric speech often alludes to more but doesn't always deliver. Don't get serenaded simply by how a candidate sounds when they speak. What are they really saying?
What is important to you? What matters the most? Is it our people, the homelessness, the poverty of some of our most vulnerable children and the domestic violence and crime undercurrents in our region?
Or is it the way our cities look? How our city centres are not what they once were? How do we revive them and bring life back to the inner city shops? Does the lakefront upgrade and tourism matter to you? Or are rates and their constant increase a high priority on your voting hit list?
Whatever is most important to you should help you decide who you vote for. For me I wish to see a mix of people on my council. I want a range of ages, ethnicities, experience and direction represented.
I want a council that represents every single person. I want a council who understands our people's needs and who are not afraid to tackle the hard issues that we currently face as a diverse bi-cultural and social economical region.
I want our councils to protect and promote our tourism and our beautiful beaches, lakes and forests alongside caring and protecting our people by putting their needs first.
When voting, remember you don't need to vote for a full 10 candidates, you can vote for as many or little as you want up to 10. Pick the best people that speak to you. Regardless of who you vote for, make sure you do vote.
You have until October 12 to have your say.
As of October 2 only 13 per cent of voting forms had been returned in Rotorua and only 10 per cent collectively from Tauranga and surrounding areas. Don't wait until the last minute, have a read, be informed and send back your completed forms.
We are only as strong as a collective. We can only make change if we all care enough to vote.