Council boundary restructure looks to stay the same

By Lachlan Durling

THE Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) doing away with separate wards in Campaspe Shire is looking unlikely as the latest representation and subdivision review for Campaspe Shire draws to a close.

A review into the structure of the Campaspe Shire Council boundaries and wards proposed two main options, keeping the current ward-based divisions with minor boundary adjustments (option A) or an un-subdivided model of nine councillors (option B).

In a preliminary report filed in the past month the VEC said the current electoral structure continues to be the most effective method of representation for districts in Campaspe Shire.

“Uneven population growth in the shire has necessitated adjustments in the present electoral structure,” the report said.

As part of its research, the VEC considered a variation of the current electoral structure that combines Rochester and Waranga wards to accommodate the declining number of voters in Waranga ward.

Additionally, a variation that built on the above model by also combining Echuca and Western wards was considered to do away with all single-councillor wards.

The VEC found that forming an un-subdivided council would overcome population and boundary adjustment issues as well as uncontested candidates, however could affect the ‘distinct identity’ of towns in the district.

Campaspe Shire acting chief executive Ray Burton said council supports Option A which retains the current structure comprising of nine councillors across two three-councillor wards and three single-councillor wards.

“Council considers the current ward-based structure as the most appropriate and effective model to ensure voter representation for the diverse communities of interest across the shire,” he said.

“Campaspe Shire continues to experience population growth, particularly within the multi-member wards of Echuca and Kyabram-Deakin.

“Overall the Council is satisfied with the findings and supports the VEC's preferred option.”

The preliminary report received seven responses, with the majority in support of option A.

However Peter Williams said a larger pool of seven councillors representing the entirety of the shire would be “more than adequate”.

“There is no evidence that supports the notion that smaller communities will not get representation in an un-subdivided election,” he said.

“Strong candidates will get elected regardless of where they live. Indeed, in Campaspe Shire there have been three councillors elected in wards they do not live in.

“This clearly shows voters vote for who they want to represent them rather than where they come from.

“A subdivided council sadly encourages parochialism of the worst kind and in all Campaspe Councils too many councillors have only been interested in their own small patch and not in the best interests of the shire as a whole.

“An un-subdivided council . . . can only lead to better decision making.”