OPINION: I've been busy sizing up the local body election talent, in much the same way that undertakers look at old people.
Invited to host a variety of well-attended candidates meetings, I've seen the best and worst of the hustlers on the hustings.
But why is it that council elections are the plaything of so many neighbourhood nutters, a suction cup for crazies and kooks? Some of these political dreamers have a far greater chance of being reincarnated as a baked bean.
So who will triumph on Saturday? Who will rock the ballot box? Here's what my radar tells me.
Banks Peninsula will elect Nuk Korako as their new councillor.
Hagley-Ferrymead will re-elect Yani Johanson alongside newcomer, Paul Lonsdale, who picks up the "voice of business" baton from Tim Carter.
Out east, the ward battle in Burwood-Pegasus has been powered by singularly local issues. Wastewater, housing and the aquatic facility debate have spiked the race. Glenn Livingstone should romp home, yet the second slot strikes me as a tantalising toss-up between David East and Robyn Nuthall.
Spreydon-Heathcote faces the unusual assignment of electing two freshly-minted councillors, following the exit of Wells and Corbett.
Name recognition will be a huge factor in this contest and Canterbury University's student president, Erin Jackson, is an impressive performer. Despite only being 24, the responsibility of office will sit easily on her shoulders.
Former Banks Peninsula mayor Noeline Allen and community board chairman Phil Clearwater will scrap it out for second slot. In Riccarton-Wigram, Saturday should herald the return of Vicki Buck and the involuntary dispatch of Helen Broughton.
I cannot see Broughton overcoming the grassroots gusto of Jimmy Chen, the one-man door-knocking machine, who visits every residence in the ward. Given his cold-calling industriousness, it's a miracle he hasn't been poached by in-your-face fundraisers from Barnardos.
Fendalton-Waimairi is a fascinating race, but I think Jamie Gough, the toy-boy fantasy of many a Merivale matron, will survive the Marryatt morass to be returned, unlike his running mate, Claudia Reid. I expect Gough will be joined in council by Raf Manji, another enterprising newbie and torchbearer for new leadership.
Papanui-Shirley features the two fawning foot-soldiers of the Marryatt-Parker regime, Ngaire Button and Aaron Keown. Ali Jones, with a perky personality primed for public office, will bolt in as a newbie.
Button exhibited the decisiveness of a dishcloth by musing about withdrawing. Voters will put her out of her misery, but I believe Keown will do a Houdini and win re-election.
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