BAW BAW // A MINORITY of councillors have expressed concerns about Baw Baw’s submission the Victorian Electoral Commission’s review of the council’s ward structure.
First published in the 14 August 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen – all dates relative to then. Click here to read the full edition online.
The VEC is undertaking a review of electoral representation in Baw Baw and has sought input from the community on what people think might work best.
Baw Baw’s councillors this week voted to endorse the council’s own submission, but the vote was not unanimous.
Mount Worth ward councillor Peter Kostos and North ward councillor David Balfour spoke against the endorsement motion, arguing the council was going in the wrong direction and larger wards were not the answer.
The council’s submission states “the current model works reasonably well but would benefit from minor modifications.”
The shire has made the following recommendations for review by the VEC:
“1. Multi-councillor wards are working well
“2. The current number of nine councillors is working well
“3. Many travel corridors within the shire run north south rather than east west and the wards should reflect this
“4. An unsubdivided model could not adequately ensure that residents in outlying smaller areas and townships are represented
“5. A mix of multi-councillor and single-councillor wards would result in inconsistent vote counting systems within the municipality and this may be confusing and present an unnecessary cost to residents
“6. Wards that define the larger towns of Warragul and Drouin so as to exclude the more rural areas within the municipality, or cause a “donut effect” risk creating a sense of provincialism within
the municipality would likely prove to be detrimental and foster a sense of adversary between wards.”
A map provided with the council’s submission showed a proposed new ward layout, with a three member ward for Drouin and areas north and south, a four councillor ward for Warragul and areas roughly north and south, and a massive two member ward for everywhere east of that – roughly half the shire.
The present ward structure has a ward for Warragul, another for Drouin and two larger wards for everywhere else.
The objections centred around the scale of wards.
“One of the main reasons I want to speak against, to state my case, is I don’t know what the VEC has in mind,” Cr Kostos said.
“I saw a change from single councillor wards in 2005-08 to what we have now. In 2012 we retained the current boundaries with minor tweaks.
“I know it’s very difficult at the moment – we have a lot of travel [in the larger wards.]
“The current submissions sees a very large ward in the eastern end.
“I would really like councillors to consider at least keeping the same structure… to make it, I believe, better accessible for councillors to access their constituents.
“I do believe that we should keep the current structure.”
Cr Balfour, who initially said he was “a bit either way” about the motion, said a return to an older system might work better for the more regional areas.
“I believe the system we had seven years ago… was much easier to work and communicate with your local communities,” Cr Balfour said.
“In the last seven to eight years [I’ve had to visit] so many community groups. It’s a lot for two councillors to keep up with.
“Over the last seven years I’ve probably let other communities down because I’ve been involved in other issues.”
Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci was one of the majority who supported the motion.
“I’m a Warragul ward councillor, [the farthest I travel is] the outskirts of Warragul,” he said.
“This spreads the burden on councillors a little more.”
“If you look at the structure of the wards at the moment, Noojee links right into Warragul [but is in a different ward].”
Cr Gauci warned against any suggestions Baw Baw become a single ward council.
“My view would be if we had a one vote one person station, we could have six councillors of nine from Warragul, or all nine from the two major towns,” he said.
Above: the proposed new ward structure, in blue. From the Baw Baw Shire Council 12 August 2015 meeting agenda supplemental.
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