One-ward sys­tem back­fired: coun­cil­lor

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Times News - War­ren Hately

Au­gusta-based coun­cil­lor Mike Smart says the re­cent move to a one-ward sys­tem “back­fired” on its sup­port­ers dur­ing last month’s lo­cal govern­ment elec­tion.

Cel­e­brat­ing a win for the can­di­dates he en­dorsed, Cr Smart — who was a vo­cal critic of the de­ci­sion to ditch the old wards sys­tem — told the Times can­di­dates such as ex-deputy Shire pres­i­dent Kylie Ken­naugh fell foul of the one-ward sys­tem she and other mem­bers sup­ported.

The move to a sin­gle ward also claimed Cr Smart’s col­league Kim Hastie but saw Ju­lia Mel­drum and Naomi God­den elected, giv­ing enough votes to se­cure Pam Town­shend as Shire pres­i­dent last fort­night.

“Apart from the loss of Kim Hastie, who was a hard­work­ing and very con­sci­en­tious coun­cil­lor, I’m de­lighted with the elec­tion re­sults and sub­se­quent leadership struc­ture,” Cr Smart said.

The new sys­tem also in­tro­duced cam­paign­ing to the Au­gusta-Mar­garet River Shire, Cr Smart said, lead­ing to dis­gruntle­ment from los­ing can­di­dates aired on so­cial me­dia af­ter the elec­tion.

“From my point of view, I was quite happy to openly cam­paign for can­di­dates that I felt would give eq­ui­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion right across the Shire,” Cr Smart said.

“To sug­gest that this is wrong is rather silly. It’s stan­dard prac­tice in State and Fed­eral pol­i­tics.”

New Shire pres­i­dent Pam Town­shend voiced her wor­ries about party pol­i­tics in­fect­ing lo­cal elec­tions when the one-ward sys­tem was voted in, with the change re­quir­ing se­ri­ous cam­paign­ing across a big­ger elec­torate.

“To chase 1700 votes is more dif­fi­cult to 400 votes and would need a con­certed, large cam­paign, which is also an op­por­tu­nity to meet con­stituents and talk to them face to face,” she said. “The com­mu­nity showed their sup­port by vot­ing for the can­di­dates they did.”

Mrs Ken­naugh re­jected Cr Smart’s anal­y­sis.

“I do not blame the ‘no wards’ for the out­come of the elec­tion,” she said. “I be­lieve (it) had more to do with com­pla­cency from those that were happy with the way the Shire was run­ning. Over­all, we had a good track record.”

The wards sys­tem needed re­form be­cause can­di­dates of­ten did not live in their ward any­way and elec­tors should en­gage with all coun­cil­lors, Ms Ken­naugh said.

Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ever­shed said the healthy voter turnout, strong cam­paign­ing and a di­verse out­come for the new coun­cil showed the re­form had merit.

“The no-wards move was a re­sound­ing suc­cess be­cause it was based on (a) sound ra­tio­nale and a fairer one-vote, one-value prin­ci­ple,” he said. “A ter­rific out­come. I look for­ward to work­ing with all of the new coun­cil­lors in a very healthy pro­duc­tive part­ner­ship.”

Mr Hastie told the Times the one-ward sys­tem made it “a big ask” for can­di­dates from smaller pop­u­la­tion cen­tres like Au­gusta to com­pete.

I do not blame the ‘no wards’ for the out­come of the elec­tion.

Kylie Ken­naugh

Coun­cil­lor Mike Smart.

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