A LARGE part of NSW is off to the polls on Saturday, September 9, for council elections mark II.
After over a year of protests and legal action, voters will get to have their say in a selection of councils originally marked for mergers under the State Government’s local government reforms.
Elections for councils not being merged by the state government were held last year.
The NSW Electoral Commission’s spokesman, Richard Carroll, said 20 new councils and 26 established regional and metropolitan councils would go to election.
“The councils having election on September 9 had their elections postponed due to the ongoing council amalgamation process,” Mr Carroll said.
Newly merged councils such as the Northern Beaches, Inner West and Central Coast Councils have been governed by administrators appointed by the government up to now. Saturday gives residents the chance to choose the new face of these councils.
“The upcoming elections are historic for the communities represented by the 20 new councils, with them electing councillors for the first time,” Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said today.
In total, 1938 councillor and 61 mayoral candidates are standing for seats in the 45 council elections that will be managed by the NSW Electoral Commission on Saturday, September 9.
Central Coast Council has 94 candidates — the highest number — vying for 15 council seats.
The elections are a victory for the councils which successfully fought amalgamation such as Woollahra which is yet to formally drop its High Court challenge despite the State Government abandoning forced mergers.
“Woollahra Council is continuing to negotiate with the Crown solicitors about the recovery of costs and the next steps in our High Court challenge,” the council’s spokeswoman said today.
The council was due to have a full hearing in the High Court in October against a proposed eastern suburbs merger with Randwick and Waverley, but the State Government in July ditched its idea to force the amalgamation of 14 metropolitan councils including Woollahra.
Ratepayers in these electorates will have to vote but questions loom over the recovery of funds in incurred during its court battles.
“The State Government made a decision to back down on their forced amalgamation proposals and we believe that decision was the right one,” Woollahra’s spokeswoman said.
“It also comes with a responsibility to ensure that the financial position of Woollahra Council and all other councils for that matter is reinstated to what it was before they started pursuing their amalgamation agenda.”
HOW WE GOT HERE
THE State Government announced its plan to amalgamate councils across NSW in 2014 as part of its Fit for the Future program, following a three-year independent review of local government.
The government promised at the time to transform the system of local government to create new, stronger councils, improve council performance and strengthen the system of local government.
But a litany of court battles ensued amid council concerns over the legitimacy of the process.
There was also a lot uncertainty over communities represented by smaller councils being subsumed into larger ones and having their voice lost, as well as over costs associated with the changes.
Twenty councils were forcibly amalgamated. Of these, City of Parramatta council is made up of the highest number of previous council areas: Auburn, Holroyd, Hornsby, Parramatta and the Hills.
Metropolitan councils that had been slated to merge were: Burwood, Canada Bay, Strathfield; Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai; Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Ryde; North Sydney, Willoughby, Mosman; and Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra.
However they were given a reprieve when Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton called off the forced amalgamations in July 2017.
“Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing taxpayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” Ms Upton said in a statement at the time.
The Court of Appeal had by then thrown out the mergers for Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Strathfield and Ku-ring-gai councils, although Woollahra Council’s High Court challenge continues.
The following regional councils had also been scheduled to be merged but were reprieved following the swing against the government in the 2016 Orange by-election: Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra (now Armidale Regional), Uralla Shire and Walcha councils, Bathurst Regional and Oberon councils, Blayney Shire, Cabonne and Orange City councils, Dungog Shire and Maitland City councils, Newcastle City and Port Stephens councils, Shellharbour City and Wollongong City councils, and Dungog Shire and Port Stephens councils.
Six candidates were automatically elected in two Murrumbidgee wards. This was because the number of nominated candidates in those areas was equal to the number of positions to be filled.
One of the uncontested wards is also the state’s smallest with 892 enrolled electors.
The largest ward in NSW is Central Coast Wyong ward with 50,811 electors.
Voters will get to pick their own mayors in Burwood, Canada Bay, Hornsby, Hunter’s Hill, Mosman, Newcastle, North Sydney, Orange, Port Stephens, The Hills, Willoughby and Wollongong.
Maitland City Council will manage its own election on September 9.
The NSW Electoral Commission’s spokesman, Richard Carroll, said the fine for not voting was $55.
“The Commission is undertaking extensive advertising/publicity activity to inform electors of their need to vote in print, radio, digital, social media and mailouts,” he said.
When asked which council election would be the most interesting to watch, Mr Carroll said it was “impossible to say”.
“Any large, newly amalgamated council could be interesting,” he said, adding early voting is now open.
If your council is having an election, and you can’t get to a polling place on Saturday, September 9, you can vote early at your local pre-poll venues, or at Sydney Town Hall.
Find your council’s pre-poll venues at: votensw.info/early_voting/find_a_pre-poll_venue
As of close of business yesterday, 144,844 postal vote applications had already been accepted and are currently being processed, Mr Carroll said.
People have until Monday 5pm to get their applications in.
Visit votensw.info or call 1300 135 736 for details.
COUNCILS HAVING ELECTIONS RUN BY THE NSW ELECTORAL COMMISSION:
■ Armidale Regional Council** (comprised of the previous council areas of Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra) — election of 11 councillors;
■ Bathurst Regional Council — election of nine councillors;
■ Bayside Council** (Botany Bay, Rockdale) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Blayney Shire Council — election of seven councillors;
■ Burwood Council — election of six councillors and mayor;
■ Cabonne Council — election of 12 councillors;
■ City of Canada Bay Council — election of eight councillors and mayor;
■ Canterbury-Bankstown Council** (Bankstown, Canterbury) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Central Coast Council** (Gosford, Wyong) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council** (Cootamundra, Gundagai) — election of nine councillors;
■ Cumberland Council** (Auburn*, Holroyd*, Parramatta*) — election of 15 councillors for the following wards: Granville Ward, Greystanes Ward, Regents Park Ward, South Granville Ward, Wentworthville Ward;
■ Dubbo Regional Council** (Dubbo, Wellington) — election of 10 councillors;
■ Dungog Shire Council — election of nine councillors;
■ Edward River Council** (Conargo, Deniliquin) — election of nine councillors;
■ Federation Council** (Corowa, Urana) — election of nine councillors;
■ Georges River Council** (Hurstville, Kogarah) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Hilltops Council** (Boorowa, Harden, Young) — election of 11 councillors;
■ The Council of the Shire of Hornsby — election of nine councillors and mayor;
■ The Council of the Municipality of Hunter’s Hill — election of six councillors and mayor;
■ Inner West Council** (Ashfield, Leichhardt, Marrickville) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Ku-ring-gai Council — election of 10 councillors;
■ Lane Cove Municipal Council — election of nine councillors;
■ Mid-Coast Council** (Gloucester, Great Lakes, Greater Taree) — election of 11 councillors;
■ Mosman Municipal Council — election of six councillors and mayor;
■ Murray River Council** (Murray; Wakool) — election of nine councillors;
■ Murrumbidgee Council** (Jerilderie, Murrumbidgee) — election of nine councillors;
■ Newcastle City Council — election of 12 councillors and a lord mayor;
■ North Sydney Council — election of nine councillors and mayor;
■ Northern Beaches Council** (Manly, Pittwater, Warringah) — election of 15 councillors;
■ Oberon Council — election of nine councillors;
■ Orange City Council — election of 11 councillors and mayor;
■ City of Parramatta Council** (Auburn*, Holroyd*, Hornsby*, Parramatta*, The Hills*) — election of 15 councillors for the following wards: Dundas Ward, Epping Ward, North Rocks Ward, Parramatta Ward, Rosehill Ward;
■ Port Stephens Council — election of nine councillors and mayor;
■ Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council** (Palerang, Queanbeyan) — election of 11 councillors;
■ Randwick City Council — election of 15 councillors;
■ Council of the City of Ryde — election of 12 councillors;
■ Shellharbour City Council — election of seven councillors;
■ Snowy Monaro Regional Council** (Bombala, Cooma-Monaro, Snowy River) — election of 11 councillors;
■ Snowy Valleys Council** (Tumbarumba, Tumut) — election of nine councillors;
■ Strathfield Municipal Council — election of seven councillors;
■ The Hills Shire Council — election of 12 councillors and mayor;
■ Waverley Council — election of 12 councillors;
■ Willoughby City Council — election of 12 councillors and mayor;
■ Wollongong City Council — election of 12 councillors and a lord mayor;
■ Woollahra Municipal Council — election of 15 councillors.
** Indicates a new council
* Indicates a previous council split across two or merger proposals
Elections managed by the council
■ Maitland City Council — visit the council website for details.
Premier Berejiklian abandons council mergers