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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Local Council Electoral Review Outcome: Buloke’s “Extreme Disappointment”

The Buloke Shire Council has taken a stance by reaching out to The Hon. Melissa Horne, Minister for Local Government, to express their profound disappointment regarding the recent outcomes of the Local Council Electoral Structure Review.

Back in October 2022, the Minister initiated two advisory panels tasked with reviewing and offering counsel on the electoral frameworks of 39 local councils, including Buloke. Fast forward to February 2024, the final report from these panels was released, with all recommendations duly acknowledged by the Minister. Among these recommendations was the proposal for Buloke Shire Council to transition to a multi-councillor ward structure, reducing the total number of councillors from 7 to 6, with each ward comprising 2 councillors, amounting to 3 wards in total.

While the names of the Buloke wards remain consistent – Lower Avoca Ward, Mallee Ward, and Mount Jeffcott Ward – there are notable boundary adjustments, notably with Birchip relocating back into the Mallee Ward.

All endorsed recommendations are slated to come into effect for the forthcoming Local Government Elections scheduled for October this year.

In a submission made by the Council in 2023, concerns were raised regarding the impact of reducing the number of councillors on the workload, particularly given Buloke’s expansive geographic footprint of 8,000 square kilometers, coupled with a dispersed population and the absence of a major urban center.

Furthermore, the Council is opposed to maintaining a divided ward structure that would result in an even number of councillors, citing concerns over equitable decision-making and the heightened likelihood of majoritarian decision outcomes.

Cr. Alan Getley, the Mayor, asserts that the Council firmly believed an undivided model with 7 councillors was the most suitable arrangement for Buloke. Expressing disappointment in the review’s outcomes, Cr. Getley highlighted the Council’s clear articulation in their submission of the necessity to maintain current councillor numbers, given the unique geographical and infrastructural demands of the area.

The potential ramifications of these decisions on future candidate interest for Council positions also weigh heavily on the minds of Council members, who fear a deterrent effect due to the anticipated workload over the next 4 years.

As of the time of publication, the Council is still awaiting a response from the Minister regarding their correspondence.

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