Originally written by BRIAN O’BRIEN
GLENELG Shire Council will stick with its status quo and retain nine ridings, each with one councillor.
The shire decided not to move an unsubdivided municipality like Southern Grampians Shire, backing the claim of the original shire commissioners who believed this method of election increased the potential for a council to be stacked and manipulated by sectional interest groups.
Southern Grampians Shire is unique in that of the 20 councils who held their first elections in 1996, its commissioners were the only ones to opt for an unsubdivided municipality.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Glenelg Shire Council also adopted changes to its internal boundaries.
Casterton will be now entirely in Gilmore (Cr Jean McCallum is the current representative) and Heywood will be entirely in Mt Clay (Cr Terry Grant). Currently the towns are split between two councillors each.
Boundary changes have been necessary because three ridings Gilmore, Grant and Dutton are now outside the 10 per cent variation allowed. This has been caused by population growing around Portland but dropping in rural areas. This has been due to the significant conversion of farmland to timber plantations and the ongoing trend for agricultural holdings to become larger.
The numbers of electors in Dutton (Cr Shirley Elliott) is well above the average number of electors per riding (2186), while Gilmore (Cr McCallum) and Grant (Cr Robert Halliday) are under represented.
The proposed number of voters per riding will now be: Mitchell 2187, Henty 2175, Gilmore 2108, Cobboboonee 2186, Mt Clay 2191, Grant 2221, Dutton 2193, Flinders 2161, Fawthrop 2256.
Council officers have also been given flexibility to adjust the exact lines of each riding boundary when Land Victoria prepares the exact technical description.
Proposed changes to the boundaries seems to have met with general approval because no objections were received.
In a report to Tuesday’s meeting, council’s governance and special projects manager, Trevor Hornby, said unlike most rural municipalities, the majority of the shire was in the southern section from Bridgewater Bay, across to Heywood and down to Narrawong.
“The balance of the shire is sparsely populated, except for the Casterton township,” he reported.
“This population imbalance has provided a significant challenge in the formulation of the new electoral boundaries with the required number of voters, whilst ensuring that the current rural and urban balance is maintained.”
Mr Hornby said Glenelg shire had tried to retain the existing rural-urban mix four rural councillors, four urban/residential councillors and one rural/residential councillor.
Arguments in favor of ridings was that it fostered true local government, Mr Hornby said in his report.
“Councillors are considered more accessible and accountable to local communities, and it unlikely that political parties or sectional interests can dominate the council,” he wrote. “However, some voters may feel that their access to council is constrained if they do not like or support the single member who represents their locality.”
Unsubdivided councils were best suited to small, compact communities that couldn’t be subdivided easily in terms of population or geographic area, he added.