Next council may still have 15 councillors irrespective of Referendum outcome

Vacant chairs in the Wyong chamber ready and waiting for the newly-elected councillors to take their placesVacant chairs in the Wyong chamber ready and waiting for the newly-elected councillors to take their places

If Central Coast Council elections are held in September 2022, as mooted by Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock, residents will be voting for 15 councillors over four wards, regardless of the outcome of any referendum held in the meantime.

The referendum, which was originally slated for September 4 this year, is now on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions and it is uncertain just when it will be held.

Administrator Rik Hart explained that results of any referendum could not be instituted for at least 12 months.

Deciding on a new date for the referendum, which will ask residents to vote on reducing the number of councillors from 15 to nine and the number of wards from five to three, will be tricky.

Hart has ruled out December 4 as a possible date, to coincide with rescheduled local government elections in other LGAs.

The Electoral Commission was unable to co-ordinate the referendum planned for this year, so Council engaged a Queensland company to do the job.

“The thing is, this Queensland company cannot conduct electronic voting, so a new date for when it can conduct our referendum will depend largely on COVID restrictions,” Hart said.

Approaching the Electoral Commission to conduct the referendum is not an option.

“We are now locked in to proceed with the Queensland company,” Hart said.

“So we will have to wait and see how COVID (lockdown) progresses to decide on a new date.

“Whenever the referendum is held, any changes to our current system decided by that referendum could not be introduced for at least 12 months.”

“So while our election of councillors could still go ahead next year, the referendum results would not apply.”

Council is awaiting a report outlining the way forward with the referendum.

Terry Collins