Corangamite Shire Council will ask the Victorian Electoral Commission to keep the Ward structure.
At a special meeting in Camperdown last night Councillors voted to instruct the Chief Executive Officer to make a submission to the Electoral Representation Advisory Panel (ERAP) which is reviewing the Shire’s voting structure.
With three Councillors in Central Ward and one each in North, South-Central, South-West and Coastal Wards, the existing Ward structure does not comply with the ‘Local Government Act 2020’.
As a result, the Minister for Local Government has established the ERAP to undertake an electoral structure review of Corangamite Shire Council.
Submissions close on 22 February and Council will make a case for a new Wards-based structure.
Mayor Ruth Gstrein said Councillors felt it necessary to hold a special meeting to make the submission sent a strong message to the VEC.
“We could have done it under delegation but we wanted to send a clear and unambiguous message to the VEC that this is the position of Corangamite Shire Council,” Cr Gstrein said.
The Mayor said changing to seven single-member Wards would be the least disruptive alternative.
“The most straightforward way of doing this about would be to keep the current single-member Wards and divide the Central Ward into three,” Cr Gstrein said.
“Council proposes creation of a new West Ward, encompassing Terang and Noorat, and dividing Camperdown and surrounds into East-Central Ward and West-Central Ward.”
Councillors expressed concern that the needs of a large and diverse Shire with widely dispersed population called for local Councillors with knowledge.
Deputy Mayor Geraldine Conheady said the Ward structure “is not ‘broke'”.
“It is functioning really well and has done for many, many years. We have a lot of diversity in terms of the Wards that we currently have in place in terms of demography, topography and industry and also in our population distribution.”
“With a Ward structure we can be closer and more in touch with our community and have a strong connection with our ratepayers.”
Councillor Nick Cole aired the concerns of many of his constituents in North Ward, which makes up almost half the Shire in size but not in population.
“The smaller communities feel they’ll be left behind,” he said.
“The issues that affect us up there are quite unique compared to the rest of the Shire.”
Cr Gstrein said the proposal was the best option for a number of reasons.
“Councillors are more likely to be truly local representatives of their Ward, be easily accessible to residents, and aware of local issues,” she said.
“Major communities are likely to be represented so towns like Skipton and Lismore have a strong voice at the Council table.
“It’s also less likely that one particular area’s point of view dominates council decisions.”
Cr Gstrein said community members had told her they had found it difficult to make submissions on VEC website.
“Our Governance staff are more than happy to help anybody if they would like to make a submission,” she said.
“It’s important for people in our community to have their say.
“If your keen to support Council’s position, or perhaps you want to make an argument for an unsubdivided municipality, please make a submission.
Submissions can be made before 5 pm on Wednesday 22 February via the following methods: