MidCoast Council election could bring a loss of local representation

Former Great Lakes Shire Councillor, Jack Ireland, said local representation gives communities a voice.
Former Great Lakes Shire Councillor, Jack Ireland, said local representation gives communities a voice.

 

THE merger of former Great Lakes, Gloucester Shire and Greater Taree City Councils was a contentious issue from the start, and the 9 September MidCoast local government election is shaping up to be the same.

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With a bumper field of 69 candidates, MidCoast has enough names on the ballot paper to fill the available positions many times over.

But the biggest challenge, according to Bulahdelah resident, Jack Ireland OAM, will be ensuring equal representation across the entire council area.

“Local representation is very important, it allows people to have a say on issues that are affecting their areas, and it gives them access to the board,” Mr Ireland said.

“If you don’t have that local representation, you don’t have a voice.”

Mr Ireland, who served as a councillor on the former Great Lakes Shire for 40 years, said Gloucester, with a population of around 2,970 people, is one of the smaller communities that could struggle to secure representation.

Prior to amalgamation, 25 councillors represented the three former councils.

But with only 11 positions available for the entire MidCoast region, equating to one councillor for every 8,181 residents, hopeful candidates will now need a much larger quota of votes to get them over the line.

This will be almost triple the number of votes needed to claim a seat on former Great Lakes Council, more than double the quota for Taree and 14 times the votes previously needed in the Gloucester Shire.

“The southern part of the shire needs someone to represent them, and Gloucester needs someone as well,” Mr Ireland said.

“Without that representation, Forster, Tuncurry and Taree will rule the whole thing, and the council could become centred on those towns.”

MidCoast Council represents a region of over 90,000 residents spread over 10,000 square kilometres.

It operates a $320 million per year business with 3,200kms of roads, 542 bridges and 3,000 hectares of open space.

Mr Ireland said council “have a tough job ahead of them” and equal representation across the varied communities is needed.

 

Former Great Lakes Shire Councillor, Jack Ireland, said local representation gives communities a voice.
Former Great Lakes Shire Councillor, Jack Ireland, said local representation gives communities a voice.

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