Hawkesbury rate payers to vote on wards system

HAWKESBURY Council will host a referendum on whether it should move to a wards system on the same day as the Council elections in September.

Hawkesbury rate payers will vote for their representatives on September 10, and on the day will also be asked to vote on whether they favour a wards system.

If there is support for a wards system, Council will work over the next term to draw up appropriate boundaries for the next election.

The prospect of a referendum was a divisive one at Hawkesbury Council’s latest meeting.

Cr Bob Porter’s motion to call for the referendum passed by five votes to four at the meeting.

Mayor Kim Ford, deputy Mayor Warwick Mackay, Patrick Conolly, Tiffany Tree and Cr Porter voted for it, while Mary Lyons-Buckett, Barry Calvert, Paul Rasmussen and Leigh Williams voted against it.

Despite the vote passing, Cr Porter muttered that he could feel a rescission motion in the not too distant future.

Cr Porter said a wards system was more equitable for independent councillors.

“I've been asking for this ever since I have been on Council,” he said.

“If you have a look at what an independent councillor has to do to run a campaign in the Hawkebsury it is massive.

“I think it would be a benefit to the Hawkesbury community.”

Cr Leigh Williams disagreed with Cr Porter strongly, and the pair had a brief exchange of terse words.

Cr Williams pointed out a representative of one ward could vote on issues not in their own ward, and therefore had no accountability.

“What you'll get with wards is we are removing some of the responsibility of elected representatives,” he said

“The ones who vote on matters in somebody else's ward are doing so even though they have not been elected by those people

“Are we doing this for the community or the convenience of councillors? I suspect it may be the latter.”

Cr Tiffany Tree and Cr Patrick Conolly pointed out that the state government appeared to favour a wards system, and said it would be sensible to appease them.

“I think it is a step to maintain our independence as a local area,” Cr Tree said.

“I don't know that we will even get to an election so we'll see if that happens.

“There are a lot of independent councillors in ward systems.”

Cr Conolly added he did not buy Cr Williams’ argument about.

“You can be elected with five per cent of the vote [currently],” he said.

“You can upset 95 per cent of the people and still get elected, whereas in a ward system that won't happen.”

Cr Barry Calvert cautioned about setting up wards incorrectly.

“The Hawkesbury is a very diverse area and it would be hard to create wards that are equal,” he said.

“Someone who lives in Windsor is very different to someone who lives in Bilpin.

“A ward system with boundaries not set up properly would lead to, I think, a danger that outlying areas are underrepresented.”

Mayor Kim Ford said wards would lead to better representation, while Cr Mary Lyons-Buckett said she could see nothing to be gained from moving to a wards system.