Now is the time to have your say

VEC ■ re­view­ing shire rep­re­sen­ta­tion and struc­ture

Mansfield Courier - - News -

THE Vic­to­rian Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (VEC) has re­cently re­leased its Lo­cal Coun­cil Rep­re­sen­ta­tion Re­view pre­lim­i­nary re­port for Mans­field Shire Coun­cil.

The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act 1989 (the Act) re­quires the VEC to con­duct an elec­toral rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­view of each lo­cal coun­cil in Vic­to­ria at least be­fore ev­ery third coun­cil gen­eral elec­tion.

The pur­pose of a rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­view is to rec­om­mend an elec­toral struc­ture that pro­vides fair and eq­ui­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the per­sons who are en­ti­tled to vote at a gen­eral elec­tion of the coun­cil, which will be held later this year.

Mans­field Shire Coun­cil cur­rently com­prises five coun­cil­lors elected from four wards (one two-coun­cil­lor ward and three sin­gle-coun­cil­lor wards).

At the last rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­view, which was held in 2007, the VEC rec­om­mended that Mans­field Shire Coun­cil con­tinue with the cur­rent elec­toral struc­ture.

The cur­rent elec­toral struc­ture has been in place since the for­ma­tion of the shire in 2002.

More re­cently, over the month of Novem­ber 2019, the VEC in­vited sub­mis­sions re­gard­ing the elec­toral struc­ture and whether it should stay the same or change.

The VEC re­ceived 10 sub­mis­sions, and fol­low­ing that is con­sid­er­ing a va­ri­ety of op­tions mov­ing for­ward.

One of the op­tions is that Mans­field Shire Coun­cil con­sist of five coun­cil­lors elected from four wards, with ad­just­ments to the cur­rent ward bound­aries (one two-coun­cil­lor ward and three sin­gle­coun­cil­lor wards).

Al­ter­na­tively, the VEC has pro­posed that Mans­field Shire Coun­cil con­sist of five coun­cil­lors elected from an un­sub­di­vided elec­toral struc­ture.

They have also sug­gested the idea that Mans­field Shire Coun­cil con­sist of seven coun­cil­lors elected from an un­sub­di­vided elec­toral struc­ture.

Cr Harry Wes­ten­dorp and Cr Paul Volk­er­ing were two of the 10 who made sub­mis­sions dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary pe­riod last year.

“I be­lieve that Mans­field Shire should have an un­sub­di­vided struc­ture,” Cr Wes­ten­dorp’s sub­mis­sion reads.

“The amount of work that ward coun­cil­lors do in rep­re­sent­ing a ge­o­graphic group of vot­ers is triv­ial when com­pared to the work that is done on be­half of the shire as a whole.”

Cr Wes­ten­dorp also be­lieves that the num­ber of coun­cil­lors should be in­creased from five to seven as it would bring Mans­field into line with shires of a sim­i­lar size, such as the Cen­tral Gold­fields, Strath­bo­gie and Alpine Shires.

Mans­field Shire cov­ers an area of 3843km2, with an es­ti­mated 10,971 vot­ers (or 2194 per coun­cil­lor).

Cr Wes­ten­dorp also raised con­cerns about sit­u­a­tions where po­ten­tially con­tentious is­sues im­pact­ing the whole shire could be de­cided on the votes of only two coun­cil­lors in the ab­sence of oth­ers.

Ex­am­i­na­tion of coun­cil min­utes over the last three years re­vealed that there have been three coun­cil meet­ings where the min­i­mum num­ber of three coun­cil­lors was present.

In his sub­mis­sion, Cr Wes­ten­dorp con­cluded by say­ing that “if a de­ci­sion had been de­cided by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of those present and this de­ci­sion be­came a mat­ter of con­tention in the com­mu­nity, it would have been de­cided by the two coun­cil­lors who voted for the de­ci­sion”.

In com­par­i­son, Cr Volk­er­ing be­lieves that the cur­rent struc­ture and rep­re­sen­ta­tion should re­main, de­scrib­ing it as “ad­e­quate for the cur­rent com­po­si­tion of the Mans­field Shire” in his pre­lim­i­nary sub­mis­sion.

“As Mans­field con­tin­ues to grow, and if the next re­view of the ward struc­ture is in ap­prox­i­mately 10 years from now, it may well lead to some change,” Cr Volk­er­ing said.

“How­ever, from discussion­s with other lo­cal peo­ple, most, in­clud­ing my­self, are of the view that the cur­rent struc­ture is ad­e­quate.”

In the VEC’s re­port, it shows that 50 per cent of sub­mit­ters shared Cr Volk­er­ing’s view that the cur­rent rep­re­sen­ta­tion and struc­ture works well for Mans­field.

Cr Wes­ten­dorp was among the 30 per cent be­lieved that Mans­field Shire Coun­cil re­quires fewer wards and more coun­cil­lors.

The VEC has re-opened the win­dow for sub­mis­sions re­gard­ing the op­tions pro­posed in their re­port.

Any per­son or group, in­clud­ing the coun­cil, who wish to make sub­mis­sions, should ad­dress the op­tions pro­posed by the VEC in this re­port.

The VEC must re­ceive sub­mis­sions by 5pm on Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 26.

Late sub­mis­sions will not be ac­cepted, and those which don’t in­clude the full name and ad­dress of the sub­mit­ter also will not be ac­cepted.

Sub­mis­sions can be made on­line at vec.vic.gov.au or via email mans­field.re­[email protected] vic.gov.au or post to Vic­to­rian Elec­toral Com­mis­sion, Level 11, 530 Collins Street, Mel­bourne Vic 3000.

The sub­mis­sion pe­riod closes on Fe­bru­ary 26, and there will be a pub­lic hear­ing at coun­cil chambers on March 2.

Fol­low­ing the pub­lic hear­ing, the fi­nal re­port will be re­leased by VEC on March 25, and will rec­om­mend a struc­ture to the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

OP­TION A: Five coun­cil­lors elected from four wards, with ad­just­ments to the cur­rent ward bound­aries (one two-coun­cil­lor ward and three sin­gle­coun­cil­lor wards). OP­TION B: Five coun­cil­lors elected from an un­sub­di­vided elec­toral struc­ture. OP­TION C: Seven coun­cil­lors elected from an un­sub­di­vided elec­toral struc­ture.

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