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07.11.2019 Dubbo Regional Council's ward system is under attack again



Dubbo Regional Council's ward system is under attack again

WARD WORDS: Outspoken former Dubbo mayor and state election candidate Mathew Dickerson, state Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders and Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields share their views on wards.
WARD WORDS: Outspoken former Dubbo mayor and state election candidate Mathew Dickerson, state Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders and Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields share their views on wards.

When the NSW government merged the Dubbo City and Wellington Shire councils, it split the new council area up into five wards which required voters to elect representatives from one of the wards they lived in.

People don't know what wards they're in and it's just wrong on so many levels.

Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields.

"The reality is the wards were introduced by the state government because they were getting some pressure from the National Party in Wellington, who were unhappy about the amalgamation," former Dubbo mayor and state election candidate Mathew Dickerson said.

"So to try and appease the National Party in Wellington they introduced wards to make sure Wellington had two councillors on the council," he told Australian Community Media.

The question of whether Dubbo Regional Council is divided into wards or not is entirely a matter for the council and its community.

State Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders.

"Having no wards would make more sense... given the fact that Wellington is 20 per cent of the overall population of the new Wellington-Dubbo amalgamated council then logically you would probably get 20 per cent elected from the Wellington area....Wellington people are probably going to vote for Wellington people."

Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields did not agree that wards should be abolished. Instead, he and most other councillors want the number of wards reduced from five to two, with a Dubbo ward to consist of of eight representatives and a Wellington ward to consist of two.

"It's so disappointing that we still can't get any real change when it comes to our abhorrent wards system," Councillor Shields said.

"The people of Dubbo don't like our wards...we know the wards are confusing...people don't know what wards they're in and it's just wrong on so many levels," he said.

The council has repeatedly asked for the number of wards to be reduced but the government has refused the request.

State Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders did not deny Mr Dickerson's claims about why the ward system was introduced or indicate if he supported the current ward system.

"The question of whether Dubbo Regional Council is divided into wards or not is entirely a matter for the council and its community," Mr Saunders said.

"If the council wants to abolish its wards, it can seek the community's endorsement of a proposal to do so at a constitutional referendum...this can be held at minimal cost to the council in conjunction with its election in September."

At the moment Dubbo Regional Council appears to have no plans to hold a referendum to change the ward system - despite most councillors being in agreement that change is needed.

Mr Dickerson said if the the ward system was not abolished it would reduce choice and competition in elections.

"It is a barrier to people putting their hands up, it's a confusing system, it's an illogical system," he said.

"I would urge the local government to lobby the state government to abolish wards and in addition to that, if they won't do that hold a referendum at the next election.

"You've got the mayor who is a member of the Liberal Party and obviously the Coalition is in power so he can be talking to his friends in the Liberal Party to get some action.

"The local member could also make it happen."