Opposing views on council divisions
BUNDABERG Regional Council divisions were the hot topic at Tuesday night’s Isis District Residents and Ratepayers meeting.
Held at Isis Club, a good turnout heard Burnett MP Stephen Bennett, Division Two councillor Tony Ricciardi and Division Five councillor Greg Barnes give their views on the topic.
In December, councillors voted 8–3 in favour of asking the Local Government Minister to forgo the 10 divisions in favour of direct election of all councillors.
Mr Bennett was steadfastly against the move, citing issues in Gladstone Regional Council’s outlying areas.
Residents in those areas have claimed they aren’t fairly represented due to the council focussing on areas immediately surrounding Gladstone.
“If I get the opportunity to talk against undivided representation then I will,” Mr Bennett said.
“My role is to represent the residents, but these are my personal views.
“You only have to look at what’s happened at Gladstone.”
Cr Barnes said he fought hard to have representation in all areas.
He cited three surveys the Bundaberg council conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2013, where the majority of residents said they did not want the system to change.
“The communication with the minister doesn’t include the survey results,” Cr Barnes said.
“I was told if we put the community didn’t want (change), it would weaken the argument. If we are undivided then you may not have any representation.”
Cr Ricciardi was one of the eight councillors who voted in favour of writing to the minister.
He said his decision was driven by both the financial burden on the council and the desire to take the process out of BRC’s hands.
“The only way to get people involved is to send it to the minister,” he said.
“You have to understand, council is not just about looking after the division, we have to look at the region as a whole.”
Cr Ricciardi said he thrived on competition but at the last council election he and three other councillors were elected unopposed.
That could change at next year’s election due to a new process that will see the nominees put up on a board so residents can see who is running and decide if they want to run as well.