Tweed mayor, councillors react to the council election delay
TWEED Shire Council elections have been postponed for one year to allow the community to recover from the impact of coronavirus.
On Tuesday, NSW government postponed NSW council elections that were scheduled for September 12, 2020.
The legislation says with the pandemic, "it is reasonable in the circumstances to order the postponement".
The government decided to delay the election for at least 12 months.
The NSW Office of Local Government said on Wednesday explaining postponing the election was "to provide certainty to councils, communities and potential candidates".
"The decision to postpone the elections is necessary to ensure the health and safety of voters, NSW Electoral Commission staff and election candidates," the statement said.
The Minister has the power to further delay the elections until December 31, 2021.
"Current councillors and popularly elected mayors will continue to hold their civic offices until the rescheduled local government elections are held."
Mayoral elections will need to be held for mayors elected by councillors in September 2018 when their two-year terms expire this year.
The postponement of the 2020 elections mean the next term of NSW local government will be for three years until September 2024.
HOW COUNCILLORS FEEL:
MAYOR KATIE MILNE
Tweed Shire mayor Katie Milne praised the decision.
"Many people are horrified the Queensland council elections are still going ahead this weekend and I am so pleased for the delay announced for the NSW Council elections," she said.
"There was no consultation with councils or the community though, which was disappointing. I understand that online voting systems could not be properly implemented by this September but maybe a six month delay could have been managed to implement these new systems rather than 12 months.
"We all appreciate that rapid and dramatic decisions need to be made in response to the virus but we must not lose sight of basic democratic rights and the need to consult. Communities do expect consultation and it usually results in better decisions."
COUNCILLOR WARREN POLGLASE
Councillor Warren Polglase said had NSW followed the online and postal voting system for local government elections in South Australia, September's postponement would not be needed.
"They still have compulsory voting but this way you can do it online and for those who don't have a computer, can do it by post. The whole thing is finalised in about nine days," he said.
"It is very efficient and works well… had it been implemented in NSW, the government would likely have not had to postpone the election."
Cr Polglase believed residents were disappointment in the delay.
"I think the future will be all electronic voting, they say South Australia is a nanny state but in this they leave NSW for dead," he said.
"Going forward we (council) have a few goals about issues like how to help small businesses in the Tweed and our pensioners."
COUNCILLOR REECE BYRNES
Cr Reece Byrnes said he hadn't heard much feedback about the election reschedule as most people were focusing on the coronavirus.
He thought delaying the council elections could lead to better handling of the budget during and after the pandemic.
"It is unprecedented, it really is uncharted water," he said.
"Everything is being compared to 1929 or 1923, but this is not a banking financial crisis. It is a virus which is keeping people inside, affecting people's businesses and jobs. At this time it is vital our council acts in the best interest of people."
COUNCILLOR JAMES OWEN
Cr James Owen acknowledged he had been contacted by "a number of people disappointed that the elections aren't going ahead".
"There's definitely a mood for change in the community and people are saying Tweed needs strong leadership," he said.
"Whilst I was looking forward to the elections for similar reasons, given the circumstances it's understandable that this decision had to be made during these unprecedented times. Keeping the current council will provide some consistency during the COVID-19 recovery.
"That said I have spoken to a number of my state colleagues about the potential for NSW to adopt the Victorian model of postal voting. I believe it would lower costs and be a less resource intensive option that still allows this important democratic process to take place."
COUNCILLOR PRYCE ALLSOP
Cr Pryce Allsop said he was not surprised about the postponement and at this time the health of the community was the number one priority. He said as it was unknown how long the pandemic would affect the community, it was important "we find initiatives to keep people employed or find new opportunities".
Cr Allsop called the nation to become proactive in finding alternative ways to do things, including an "essential transition" to online voting.
"Elections and voting online offer long term savings on investment," he said.
"Advancing, creating new superior technology as a strategy is a no brainer for nation looking for opportunities to reduce impacts of a virus and currently a long-term view will make the dollars go further.
"I am so sorry to see the lines of people or social security and hear of the diabolical waiting times caused technical and personnel issues. Emotional, desperate people could with better software could resolve their own issues with clever new technologies."
Cr Allsop said Tweed's current council had served it's term and while he intended to run again, it was important "the community gets the opportunity to speak".
"I for one would be happy to view candidates profiles and objectives, review the issues they each find important and perhaps do some Q&A on line," he said.
"As a council we need to look at long lasting solutions and reducing costs, lowering legal expenditure and assist in meetings is all online communications for ... Right now, it's all about the health of our community.
"Is now the time to employ people to fix these problems and create position that people can do from home in numerous fields? Money spent on this type of employment would be money saved on welfare and ongoing election expenditure."
WHAT LGNSW HAS TO SAY
LOCAL Government NSW (LGNSW) welcomed the decision to postpone the state's council elections until September 2021 because it provided certainty to communities during extraordinary times.
LGNSW president Linda Scott praised the government for acting quickly as "there had never been a more important time for visionary local leadership that provided hope and guidance for each part of NSW".
"Mayors and councillors are working hard to ensure good governance continues during the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to do so," Cr Scott said.
"When asked to serve for an additional year, I'm confident mayors and councillors will understand the need to provide stability and continuity of governance."
Cr Scott said a small number of elected leaders may need to stand down and LGNSW would work with councils to support them during any necessary periods of transitions.
"Councils are the closest level of government to the community, and we are only too aware of the need to keep our communities safe and healthy," Cr Scott said.
"It is democracy that makes Australia the country it is, and while we should always be cautious about any action that has the potential to weaken that democracy or diminish the right of the community to have a say in their own lives, this change by the NSW Government is welcome at this time."