Councillors divided on divisions

GYMPIE Regional councillors are in two minds about whether the region should be divided into a number of divisions or remain as a whole.

Some sat on the fence on the divisional issue, while Mayor Ron Dyne said he didn’t support the idea, but this week all councillors agreed an investigation into dividing the region up was needed.

During Wednesday’s meeting Councillor Dyne (pictured right) said council should take the chance to review the implementation of divisions.

“I personally don’t agree (with reintroducing divisions)...that said we should have a review,” Cr Dyne said.

In moving the motion for staff to investigate divisions Cr Jan Watt reminded fellow councillors that in the lead up to amalgamations they had promised the community council would have another look at having the great divide once again.

But from her discussions with the Local Government Association of Queensland, Cr Watt found that only one councillor per division would be allowed if the decision to revert back to divisions was made.

She said council should make submissions and ask for multi-member divisions in order to represent the region more fairly.

“I don’t believe single-member divisions are the way,” Cr Watt said.

Cr Watt has in the past advocated for multi-member divisions because of geographical and population spread.

Divisions for all areas, if represented by one councillor, would need to extend into part of Gympie city or encompass a larger geographical area to ensure voter numbers were within 10 per cent of each other across all divisions.

Cr Watt has said candidates from outside of Gympie could be less successful in divisional elections, due to voters’ population spread, especially if a division extended into part of Gympie.

Councillors last discussed divisions in May, 2009 after Local Government Minister Desley Boyle asked councils to advise her whether they wanted to change their method of representation for the 2012 election.

During that meeting emotions ran high as the issue was debated.

Back then councillors told the minister that the undivided system was working well but any final decision should wait until the public could have their say.

This time around councillors were more sedate in their discussions, agreeing that a review was needed regardless of their personal opinions.

On Wednesday Cr Graham Engeman said the review was needed. But, council needed to invite a number of community groups to speak about the public’s thoughts on the issue, he said.

Cr Tony Perrett warned that if council was going to seek advice from the community then the community needed to be well informed.

“I was a very keen supporter,” he said for the whole of council approach but “we do need to consider all the issues and need to know all the pros and cons on how it works.”

Cr Julie Walker said after being on council when there were divisions and comparing that to now, she thought the undivided system had worked well.

Cr Watt said every voter needed to have a say before council made a decision to retain the current system or reintroduce divisions.

The issue was brought to a head by the Local Government Act requiring a review “no later than 2011.”

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