Shire chief de­fends changes to wards

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ever­shed has de­fended abol­ish­ment of the Shire’s wards sys­tem ahead of this year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion, say­ing growth in the re­gion dur­ing the past eight years trig­gered the need for change.

Coun­cil­lors nar­rowly voted to sup­port the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s rec­om­men­da­tion to re­move wards a fort­night ago, de­spite con­tention about the move and ob­ser­va­tions from Leeuwin ward coun­cil­lors that abol­ish­ing wards was a back­flip on his ad­vice from the 2009 wards re­view.

Dur­ing last fort­night’s de­bate, Au­gusta-based coun­cil­lors Mike Smart and Kim Hastie said the re­view was rid­dled with “bias and in­con­sis­ten­cies” and in­tended to elim­i­nate wards for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

The long-run­ning ten­sions be­tween Mr Ever­shed and Cr Smart in par­tic­u­lar, as well as his­toric claims of the Shire’s lack of sup­port for Au­gusta, un­der­scored the de­bate.

The 2009 ward re­view re­port re­moved a “no-wards op­tion ... due to the per­ceived need for lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the dif­fer­ing com­mu­ni­ties of in­ter­est in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions such as Au­gusta and Mar­garet River and Cowaramup”.

Mr Ever­shed told the Times his rec­om­men­da­tion was re­versed be­cause of pop­u­la­tion growth which meant it was no longer pos­si­ble to keep ad­just­ing bound­aries to account for shift­ing de­mo­graph­ics.

“I have done a very con­sci­en­tious and dili­gent as­sess­ment of the is­sues and pre­sented a com­pelling ar­gu­ment for the ‘ no wards’ op­tion which was adopted by coun­cil,” he said.

“The no-ward sys­tem is the fairest sys­tem given the chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics on the ba­sis of one vote, one value, and of fairly rep­re­sent­ing di­verse com­mu­ni­ties of in­ter­est.”

The wards re­view found Mar- garet River and Cowaramup’s faster rate of growth was cre­at­ing in­equities for coun­cil­lor rep­re­sen­ta­tion and “the in­equitable coun­cil­lor-to-elec­tor ra­tios will only worsen in fu­ture years”.

“Res­i­dents in the Mar­garet River ward are in­creas­ingly be­ing un­der-rep­re­sented per capita com­pared to their coun­ter­parts in the Leeuwin ward,” the re­port said.

Mr Ever­shed said Leeuwin ward had oth­er­wise faced a bound­ary read­just­ment bring­ing it to within 5km of Mar­garet River’s town cen­tre to make num­bers fit.

The Jan­uary 25 meet­ing also heard other re­view op­tions would force sit­ting coun­cil­lors Ian Earl and Kylie Ken­naugh to com­pete for the same seat if wards were not re­moved.

This week, Shire pres­i­dent Ian Earl said the on­go­ing de­bate around the de­ci­sion was ridicu­lous. The wards re­view re­quires rat­i­fi­ca­tion by the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter.

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