Voters divided on divisions

VOTERS are divided on whether the current divisional system for electing councillors should be kept or scrapped, according to a Bundaberg Regional Council survey.

Bundaberg mayor Lorraine Pyefinch yesterday said the council was awaiting further information from local government minister Desley Boyle, who would make an announcement on the issue of divisions sometime prior to the March 2012 election.

This would occur once the state government's Law, Justice and Safety Committee tabled its report on local government election arrangements. Submissions for this closed a month ago.

Cr Pyefinch said the council's own feedback from its past two customer satisfaction surveys showed Bundaberg regional residents were split on the issue.

“We did ask a supplementary question on divisions. In 2009, 68% of respondents supported divisions, but by 2010 this had dropped to 52%,” she said.

“So clearly the community is divided on the issue.

“There are arguments for and against, but retaining divisions does not give any guarantee that a community will be represented by someone who lives near them. As long as candidates live in the shire, they can run and be elected to any division.”

The Elliott Heads and District Ratepayers and Residents Association has written to council and the minister expressing its concern about the possible removal of divisions.

Association vice-president Larry Grove said the group's main concern was that dropping divisions could remove councillors from being responsible for a specific area and the concerns of those residents.

“When you have somebody in an area, you can complain to them. They are your representatives. If you vote somebody in on an ad hoc basis, who do we complain to?” he said.

Local Government Association of Queensland executive director Greg Hallam said the LGAQ supported divisions in smaller councils, but believed the first-past-the-post principle should be applied to larger councils.

Bundaberg Regional Council was a Category 5 council – smaller than the larger Category 7 councils that the LGAQ thought should not have divisions, he said.

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