Although there will be no Central Coast Council elections this year, residents will still be expected to go the polls on September 4 to vote on a constitutional referendum to determine the future number of councillors and wards for the region.
The referendum, to be undertaken on the same day as the 2021 Local Government Elections being held across the rest of the state, will ask residents whether or not they favour a reduction in the number of councillors from 15 to nine, resulting in three wards with each ward electing three councillors.
The decision to hold the referendum was one of the last resolutions passed by Administrator Dick Persson before he quit the post on May 12.
“The current structure of 15 councillors is too many to effectively govern the Central Coast,” Persson said.
He said having 15 councillors tends to drag meetings out unnecessarily and encourage an atmosphere of political grandstanding.
“This should ideally be reduced to nine councillors, with a Mayor being elected from one of the nine by the Council,” Persson said.
“A smaller number of councillors would assist in changing the Council from a combative political arena to a more collaborative and co-operative governing body.”
Persson had originally touted a second referendum question asking if voters would like to see wards abolished completely, which he still believes would be the best outcome.
“I believe in abolishing the wards so all councillors would represent the entire region,” Persson said.
“But traditionally people tend to vote to keep wards so I have updated the referendum question so that a ward structure is reduced from the current five to three, rather than a removal of wards all together.”
The Central Coast Local Government area is currently divided into five wards -The Entrance, Wyong, Budgewoi, Gosford West and Gosford East – with each ward represented by three councillors.
Persson said there would be an advertising campaign ahead of the referendum date to remind voters to go to the polls.
He said he had decided the referendum should be held this year so that if passed it could apply at the next Council election, expected to be held in September next year.
He said it would be up to new Administrator Rik Hart to decide if another referendum should be put at that time to abolish wards altogether.