Council election looms: NSW at forefront of change

By September, 2016 Local
NSW voters go to the polls on 10th September to decide who will be leading their councils in an election that's more of a transitional device.

Image: Keith Ivey

You’ve probably all got your pamphlets in the mail by now from Coalition, Labor or Independent candidates in your local government area.

It’s likely led to a strong sense of déjà vu after the last recent federal election in July 2016.

To have two major elections in one year and so close to each other, regardless of the tier of government, means that voters have to giddy up to the polls in relatively quick succession, and if you ask around, people aren’t quite as motivated as you move further down ballot.

The New South Wales council election will take place this week on 10th September, while Victorians will go to the polls on 22nd October. Queenslanders already had theirs on 16th March this year, and Western Australia had its election on 17th October, 2015.

As for NSW, there’s a lot at stake, and this upcoming election will be a significant marking point for change in Australia’s first state, while some key local government personalities will be in the fight for their careers.

One of the major events that took place in NSW this year was the forced local government mergers that were imposed by Premier Mike Baird – a move that was fiercely unpopular among local government personnel and members of the community, especially if it was their own council that was about to get the chop.

The state’s council peak body, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) aggressively attacked the state government’s plan to scrap 22 regional and 18 metropolitan councils as a “bully-boy farce” that’s about removing genuine local representation, and completely ignoring the expressed wishes of local communities.

And this election might be the last stand for City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who has been the welcoming face of Sydney since she assumed office in 2004, and has become perhaps one of the most persistent reformers the City has had in decades.

Love her or loathe her, it can’t be denied that she’s been steadfast in her resolve to stand up to her rivals and ideological opponents in State Parliament.

This has been demonstrated by her continuing efforts to reconfigure Sydney’s roads, reformat George Street with an ambitious light rail extension, and countless sustainability projects and initiatives to help the city become cleaner and more livable.

But it’s been widely reported that in this election, she faces an uphill battle to win a fourth term.

This is mainly due to the state government’s controversial changes to voting rules that have left Ms Moore vulnerable to defeat as businesses, which have been largely hostile to Ms Moore’s agenda, will have the privilege of two votes.

Despite that danger to her incumbency, Ms Moore could still scrape through a victory, but the new rules will make this a monumental challenge to her campaign.

As council boundaries change, and new faces will inevitably be introduced to the scene, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the progress that your council members and staff have made to your area.

And if you’re a councillor yourself, or you’re standing for office, we wish you all the best for the next four years!

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