COVID outbreak causes three-month Local Government Election delay

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock has ordered a three-month delay of the NSW Local Government Elections, which were scheduled for Saturday 4 September.


THE region’s long-awaited local government elections have been postponed once again, due to the current outbreak of COVID-19 in parts of NSW.

The Office of Local Government stated that the postponement has been made in response to the “escalating outbreak of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in Greater Sydney and the potential for further outbreaks in regional areas”.

The NSW local government elections were originally to take place in September 2020 and were postponed for one year to 4 September 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock announced the latest postponement of the elections for three months from Saturday 4 September to Saturday 4 December over the weekend.

Current councillors and mayors will continue to hold their civic offices until council elections are held on 4 December.

News of the announcement quickly spread over local social media sites, with many members of the community angered and frustrated at the latest postponement.

Coffs Harbour City Council was set to enter the caretaker period on Friday 6 August as the original 4 September elections approached, which would have seen the Council unable to make significant decisions such as determining controversial development applications and entering into contracts worth more than $150,000.

The caretaker period has now also been postponed and will commence on 5 November 2021.

Coffs Harbour City Mayor Cr Denise Knight said she was “disappointed” but not surprised by the latest postponement.

“I’m disappointed for all the candidates because they were all gearing up to get their campaigns all organised, and for other councillors it’s another extension,” Cr Knight said.

“I’m not surprised though.

“It was always in the back of my mind that it was a possibility, particularly with the pandemic, but it is what it is.”

Mayor Knight said she would be continuing to serve out her term until the new December 4 election date.

“As far as I’m concerned I’ll keep going till the end of my term, I’ve always said that,” Cr Knight said.

Mayor Knight said she would be phoning all the other councillors this week to see where they were at with the announcement.

“They have to get their head around this, like I did,” Cr Knight said.

“It was quite a shock on Saturday night, and it took me a while to get my head around it.”

Cr Knight and Cr Keith Rhoades had announced that they would not be running for the next local government election, and were preparing for their final two months on Council after many years.

Coffs Harbour Mayoral candidate Tony Judge said it was “frustrating and disappointing for people who have put a lot of time into preparing for a September election, but it’s the right decision”.

“Looking after people’s health and their lives is always the number one priority,” Mr Judge said.

“I know that the virus is largely contained in Sydney at the moment, but we have had our own scare in Coffs Harbour this week and the rate of infection in Sydney is getting higher.

“The risk of the virus spreading at a polling booth outweighs the benefit of holding the election on time.”

However, Mr Judge questioned why the NSW Government had not prepared for an election during a period of COVID infection.

“They have had a year since the last postponement to work on remote voting solutions, but they are still not prepared,” he said.

“I just hope that the NSW Government takes the strongest possible measures to prevent the virus spreading to regional NSW and to bring it under control in Sydney.

“In the meantime, I will continue to work with the Labor Council team to hear the community’s views, respond to the challenges ahead and prepare for a December election.”

Mayoral candidate for Bellingen Shire Council Andrew Woodward and the Labor Council Team said they support the NSW Government’s decision to postpone the local government elections until 4 December, due to the public health emergency in Sydney.

“We look forward to the longer than expected opportunity to talk to the community about our positive plans for change and progress in Bellingen Shire,” Mr Woodward stated following the announcement.

“The deferment changes nothing when it comes to the issues involved; the need for change and progress remains.

“The current council should keep governing; make decisions and not hold off on any important or necessary decisions.”

A total of 125 NSW councils will be holding elections on Saturday 4 December for the election of councillors.

Coffs Harbour City Council and Bellingen Shire Council are also two of 35 councils across NSW holding a mayoral election, in addition to the election of councillors.

Important dates relating to the December 4 Local Government Elections have now been made and include:

  • 25 October – Close of electoral rolls at 6pm

– Candidate nominations open

  • 3 November – Close of candidate nominations
  • 5 November – Caretaker period commences
  • 22 November – Pre-poll voting opens
  • 29 November – Postal vote applications close
  • 3 December – Pre-poll voting closes
  • 4 December – Election day (8am-6pm)

The NSW Electoral Commission’s COVID safety plan for the NSW local council elections includes electors and election staff checking in and out of voting centres using the Service NSW QR code, anyone entering a voting centre must wear a face mask, electors are encouraged to bring their own pens or single use pens will be provided to mark their ballot papers, physical distancing measures will be maintained, additional staff will be employed at voting centres to assist with physical distancing and implementing hygiene measures, and changes to voting eligibility requirements in order to mitigate COVID-19 risks including expanded eligibility for postal voting will be implemented and promoted.

The postponement of the next ordinary local government elections will not affect the timing of future council elections, and the subsequent ordinary local government elections will still proceed in September 2024.

Voting in the NSW local government election is compulsory.



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