Now is the time to have your say
VEC ■ reviewing shire representation and structure
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.