Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.

 

*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 

 

 

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode two, October 18 2016

About Regional strives to capture the colour, wisdom, and issues of South East NSW, in episode two of the podcast…

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

* Long time Eurobodalla Council watcher Keith Dance wants to change the way Local Government is elected in NSW.

Having served two terms on Council and contested every election between 2000 and 2010, Keith believes the system encourages too many candidates to stand, which makes it impossible for voters to make an informed choice.

Keith reckons part of the solution comes from Victoria.

John Alcock and Howard Charles
John Alcock and Howard Charles

* The small Monaro town of Nimmitabel, south-east of Cooma is heading into summer with more water security than every before. A new dam has just opened on the outskirts of town.

Howard Charles and John Alcock are two of the fathers of the Lake Wallace Dam, both were keen to jump the fence and show me around.

* The Archibald Prize has just wrapped up for another year at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

But these famous faces aren’t being put away, they are hitting the road for a tour of regional NSW and Victoria – including the Bega Valley Regional Gallery.

Gallery Director, Iain Dawson gives us a preview.

And a bush dance to finish with, the Kameruka Bush Orchestra in full flight.

Listening and streaming options:

Click here to listen via AudioBoom

Click here to listen via Stitcher

Coming soon to iTunes!

NSW Local Government Elections – there has gotta be a better way

People casting a vote
People casting a vote

The results of the poll have been declared, the new Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are getting down to work, however some voters are perhaps still wondering who are these people?

Leading up to Polling Day on September 10, locals had to contend with a field of candidates that would have filled a few of buses.

Fifty-five candidates stood in the Eurobodalla, 26 in the Bega Valley; contesting nine spots on both councils.

Many voters expressed frustration leading up to the poll around the lack of information about each candidate. People had a real sense that they were voting blind and resented a feeling of being forced to vote without the necessary information.

Moruya’s Keith Dance has served two terms on Eurobodalla Shire Council and lays claim to having contested every council election between 2000 and 2010.

He says he has been arguing against the way councilors are elected for many years.

“My argument has always been – we have eight vacancies (plus the Mayor), we should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance says.

“As a voter, we should be able to elect our council, not elect one member of a group and hope that their preference trail will go where we want it to go to fill the other seven spots.”

An advocate for below the line (number every box) and first past the post voting, Mr Dance is of the view that many candidates simply contested the election to direct preferences to a lead candidate.

“I makes it hard for people to decipher, to work out what the candidate’s credentials are, or even to know whether these people are fair dinkum,” Mr Dance says.

Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya
Eurobodalla Shire Council HQ @ Moruya

Rather than simply placing a ‘one’ above the line next to a candidate’s name, Mr Dance wants voters to be able to vote for each position on council directly.

‘Above the line’ voting plays out at Eurobodalla Shire elections more so than in the Bega Valley, where the makeup of candidates tends not to lend itself to that extra voting option. Having said that though, preference flows did influence the size of the field south of the Shire boundary at Dignams Creek, so the argument put by Mr Dance is relevant for both Shires.

“We should have eight primary votes,” Mr Dance suggests.

“That would shrink the field down because you would only have people who were fair dinkum about being elected.”

He believes there are at least two people elected to Eurobodalla Council on September 10 that had no desire or ambition to sit in the council chamber. Mr Dance claims these candidates found themselves higher up the preference flow order than was originally intended and hence elected on the back of a strong lead candidate.

“Now they have to try and work out whether they can fulfill the commitment of an elected councilor,” Mr Dance says.

“I used to spend three or four days a week (on council business) so the commitment to be a councilor is fairly high.”

Keith Dance from the About Regional podcast:

Coincidently Victoria is heading into Local Government Elections next month and part of the process unfolding south of the border has merit and would increase voter engagement and confidence according to Mr Dance.

This longtime council watcher believes the postal voting method many Victorian councils adopt would be a win for disillusioned voters in NSW.

“Voting information is sent to the elector and they return it as a postal vote,” Mr Dance says.

“You do not have to run the gauntlet of going into the polling booth with umpteen people in front of you shoving paper in your face saying ‘vote for me, vote for me’ it frustrates the hell out of people.”

Mr Dance says the Victorian system includes candidate profiles as part of the voting information sent out to people on the electoral roll, reducing confusion while increasing confidence in the process.

“We had nearly 12% informal voting, a 12% vote is enough to get one candidate elected, it’s wrong, it just doesn’t work,” Mr Dance says.

Bega Valley election material
Bega Valley election material

A spokesperson for Local Government NSW (LGNSW), which represents the interests of the Local Government sector in NSW, says postal voting does not have widespread support.

“Postal voting could disenfranchise a significant proportion of the voting population, particularly young people and those with less permanent addresses,” the spokesperson says.

Mr Dance disagrees and says, “It allows people to have a proper vote.”

“It needs pushing and now is the time to do it, after the election, people have had enough of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for the NSW Electorial Commission says NSW Local Government Elections are administered according to the legislation.

“Responsibility rests with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government, reforms are therefore a matter for the government of the day,” the spokesperson says.

Any organisation or member of the public can make a submission on the conduct of elections to the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“I raised this issue at a public meeting in Moruya,” Mr Dance says.

“There would have been 70 people in the room and I damn near got a standing ovation.”

Disclaimer: Author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council