Council divisions to stay but will change

ATTENTION will now turn to changes to Bundaberg Regional Council's division boundaries after its request to abolish divisions was rejected.

The Local Government Change Commission announced on Friday that there was insufficient public support for the move and that Bundaberg's 10 divisions would remain for next year's elections.

Its next job now is to redraw boundaries, with electors in divisions 5 and 6 outnumbering the other eight by too great a margin.

Division populations must not be 10% higher or lower than the council average.

Division 5, held by Greg Barnes, includes Bargara and Innes Park.

Division 6, held Danny Rowleson, covers Burnett Heads, Kalkie and Elliott Heads.

It's believed Division 4, held by Vince Habermann, now also exceeds its quote. It covers parts of the city on both sides of the river.

In December, the council voted to ask for the end of divisions, saying there was community support for an undivided council, which it said would be more practical to run.

A survey commissioned by the Change Commission found 51% of respondents supported the idea, 32% were against it and 16% were unsure.

But it said the survey of 400 people - which had a 5% margin of error - wasn't large enough to base a decision from.

The commission also received just 25 submissions in favour of removing divisions in contrast to 681 against during public consultation (signatures on three petitions submitted counted as individual submissions).

In their report, commissioners Walter van der Merwe and Gregory Rowe said their decision had not been clear-cut but they had not been persuaded there was strong enough support for an undivided system.

Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman made no secret of his advocacy for abolishing divisional representation.

Cr Forman told the NewsMail he was personally "a little bit disappointed" with the news.

"Now we'll get on with the job and work with it and see how it all pans out in the end."

Cr Forman felt abolishing divisions would have given "a better level of balance" in government.

"(It would have) provided a better opportunity for people to vote for all the councillors who are representing them in the whole of the region," he said.

"And I believe it would have possibly strengthened and united the region more."

With the decision only announced over the weekend, Cr Forman said he was yet to discuss the outcome with other councillors.

Cr Forman said he didn't know what had swayed the Commission's decision.

"Possibly there's also a silent majority who don't say enough or talk enough or make enough noise," he said.

"I know the ones that wanted to retain to retain the current situation with divisions - they were very vocal and outspoken and that has a part to play to I believe."

Cr Forman said people in Gin Gin, Isis and Bargara had petitioned to keep divisions.

But, he said, it may be a different story in the future.

"In the next election period when it's in a new period of government, that council can have the opportunity to again have the question of divisions or no divisions revisited."

But for now, Cr Forman said the issue stopped here.

"Like I said, we'll continue on as normal," he said.

The Change Commission is now accepting public suggestions about the boundary redraw. They can be emailed to bundabergregionalcouncil review@ecq. qld.gov.au, mailed to the Commission or submitted online at http://www.ecq.qld.gov.au by 5pm on Friday, July 17.



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