Lucas steps in
THE State Government will step in to over-ride Gympie Regional Council and its flawed attempt to survey public opinion on the issue of council divisions.
Deputy Premier Paul Lucas yesterday appeared to take councillors at their word about the inadequacy of the public consultation process, which preceded the council’s recommendation against divisions.
Councillors ignored their own survey, which showed a big majority in favour of divisions, claiming it was a failure.
Mr Lucas made it clear yesterday that he agrees with that sentiment, announcing that he would take the issue out of the council’s hands and have the whole matter independently reviewed.
He made a similar announcement about Townsville City Council, currently the only undivided local government with more than 100,000 voters.
In an exclusive announcement in Gympie and Townsville yesterday, Mr Lucas said the state’s independent Local Government Change Commission would “review proposed changes to Townsville and Gympie council’s electoral arrangements.”
Mr Lucas is also Local Government Minister.
Queensland Local Government Minister Paul Lucas yesterday announced that an independent commission would move in over the top of Gympie Regional Council on the issue of council electoral arrangements.
Mr Lucas said Gympie Regional Council had recently undertaken “some community engagement to determine the public’s support for a change from undivided to divided for electoral purposes.”
But the council’s efforts were not good enough, he indicated.
“Overall there was a significant majority of people (61%) who were in favour of divisions,” Mr Lucas said.
“However, only 2% of electors responded to the survey and in recent weeks residents have spoken to me outlining their concerns that the council has decided not to acknowledge the result of the survey supporting divisions.
“In the light of this I have decided to refer this matter to the Change Commission for independent review and assessment.
“As part of the Change Commission’s process for determining both these matters (Gympie and Townsville), community consultation will be undertaken to ensure the views of the local community are heard.”
Mr Lucas made a similar announcement about Townsville.
He said the Change Commission was responsible for deciding whether to change local government electoral arrangements, including the number of councillors and whether the local government is divided or undivided.
“Townsville City council has requested a reduction in the number of councillors from 12 plus the Mayor to 10 councillors plus the Mayor,” Mr Lucas said.
“As the reduction in the number of councillors is consistent with the Local Government Reform Commission’s guidelines, I have agreed to refer this change to the independent Change Commission for their consideration.
“Townsville City Council has indicated this change would bring about significant savings and would also bring the number of councillors in line with other local government areas of similar population size.
“I am also aware of strong community support for the council to be divided for the 2012 elections and beyond, including three petitions with more than 800 signatures that have been tabled in Parliament.
“Locals have expressed their desire to have individual councillors representing specific areas, a move that makes sense for a city of Townsville’s size.
“Townsville City council is currently the only undivided local government with more than 100,000 voters,” he said.
Gympie council stirred considerable controversy among residents when it ignored the outcome of its own opinion survey, branding it unrepresentative.