Ward System

Ward System
There remains general dissatisfaction with the level of engagement of City of Sydney Council and most Councillors in our area, a Friends of Erskineville committee member researched material published prior to the 2008 Council elections, and it is now obvious many residents may not have fully comprehended the pros & cons of the issue. Without Wards, in our area of the city residents don’t have a local representative voice on our local issues at Council. Read on….
“Referendum – the way for wards?

The City of South Sydney and the City of Sydney were merged back in 2004. Initially there were no wards and it seems all the candidates in the election committed themselves to introducing wards in the newly merged Council area. Last month members of the Lord Mayor’s team seemed to have changed their minds and are now not so committed to a ward system. Here Labor Councillor Tony Pooley states the case in favour, and former Deputy Mayor John McInerney gives the view of the Lord Mayor and her team. In the end, it’s up to the people of Sydney at a referendum to be held at the next Council election writes the South Sydney Herald of August 2007.

Wards: Lord Mayor’s view by John McInerney
When the State Labor Government forcibly amalgamated the former City of Sydney and South Sydney City Councils in February 2004, it directed that wards be introduced from the 2008 Council election.

Council subsequently received legal advice from the Department of Local Government that the City can only be divided into wards if it is first supported at a referendum. Council officers told us that a stand alone referendum would cost the City around $750,000, while holding it with an election would cost an extra $250,000.

Given this, Council voted to hold the referendum together with the Council elections in September next year. Voters will be asked whether they support the City being divided into three wards each electing three Councillors. If the referendum is carried, wards will be introduced from the 2012 Council elections.

The City has nine Councillors, plus the Lord Mayor. Under the Local Government Act, the number of Councillors elected for each ward must be equal. All Councillors agreed there should be at least three Councillors representing each ward.

There are several issues voters should consider when deciding whether to support wards:
➤ Will wards give better local representation? The three wards will be much larger than wards of the former South Sydney, Leichhardt or Sydney City Councils during the 1980s, with one likely to be larger than the former City of Sydney and another around the size of the former South Sydney Council.

➤ Will voters have an equal vote? The City of Sydney’s unique enrolment requirements make it difficult to ensure the number of voters in each ward is approximately equal.

➤ Which system best ensures that the Council we elect represents our diverse communities and makes decisions for the whole of the City of Sydney in a fair, equitable and responsible way?

Why I support wards by Tony Pooley
Since the forced amalgamation of the City of Sydney and South Sydney City Councils, I have been urging the Lord Mayor to reintroduce wards into the Council system. I support wards because they ensure a greater level of local representation and enable Councillors to develop specific expertise in a geographic area that is significantly smaller than the whole Council area. It also ensures a spread of representation throughout the Council area.
From experience, I can attest to the fact that local residents prefer to talk to someone who understands local issues and problems.
However, at the moment, huge chunks of the City of Sydney Council residents have no local elected representative. I’m thinking of Newtown, Alexandria and Erskineville. Also, Waterloo, Rosebery, Beaconsfield and Darlington all have no local Councillor, while Redfern has three resident Councillors and Glebe has two. How is this democratic?
Because the Lord Mayor refuses to support wards, despite her election pamphlet explicitly saying she “would consult with local communities to establish wards,” it requires anyone who aspires to be elected onto Council to campaign across the whole local government area. That means that only those who are members of political parties, or who are independently wealthy, can afford to do so. How fair does that sound?
More than 90% of Councils in New South Wales, with more than 100,000 residents, have wards. Three quarters of the current City of Sydney residents were previously represented by wards in the former South Sydney Council. Isn’t it a more effective use of Councillors’ time and resources for them to concentrate on getting to understand and help resolve problems in their local area rather than having nine Councillors running from one end of the city to the other, trying to get across every issue?
Source: South Sydney Herald July 2007, Redwatch