Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has pushed for changes to the rules around mayoral by-elections in a recent letter to the NSW Minister for Local Government.
The correspondence comes on the back of a resolution at the August council meeting, which was adopted with the support of all councillors.
Community feedback following the most recent election, which saw newcomer Peta Pinson elected as mayor, raised concerns with some councillors.
They believed the NSW Local Government Act, as it currently stands, can be seen as detrimental to sitting councillors wishing to run for mayor at a by-election, as opposed to non-councillor candidates who wish to run for mayor.
In the weeks that followed the local mayoral by-election, some community members told councillors that the avoidance of a costly second by-election was an important consideration in how they voted.
At the last election, three sitting councillors were running for the seat of mayor – Cr Rob Turner, Cr Sharon Griffiths and Cr Lisa Intemann. Had one of these councillors been elected, the Port Macquarie-Hastings local government area would have faced a second by-election to fill the vacant councillor’s position.
“In the weeks that followed the local mayoral by-election, some community members told councillors that the avoidance of a costly second by-election was an important consideration in how they voted,” said council general manager, Craig Swift-McNair.
“In discussing the matter at the recent council meeting, some councillors were concerned that the current wording of the Act does not facilitate a focus by voters on who is the best person for the mayoral role and hence does not represent good public policy in the administration of local government in NSW.”
In accordance with the council resolution, the general manager has now written to the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Gabrielle Upton, highlighting issues with Section 276(2) of the NSW Local Government Act 1993, suggesting potential solutions to the issues, and seeking urgent review of the Act to ensure all candidates are treated equally.
A response from the Minister has been requested by the end of October to allow a report on the matter to be presented at the November council meeting.