An independent survey starts today (Thursday 17 March 2016) in the Upper Hunter Shire on whether to have a referendum on the preferred system for electing the mayor.
Four hundred Upper Hunter Shire residents will be randomly selected to respond to a short survey, in most cases by phone. The survey will cover residents from a range of locations in the shire, who are over the age of 17 years, and are not Council staff or their immediate family.
A copy of the questions
that the sample respondents will be asked, is on Council’s website. Copy of sample questions (PDF-179KB)
Council commissioned consultants, Micromex Research to design and conduct the survey. Councillors made the decision at the January 2016 ordinary general meeting in response to a petition of 420 signatures.
Currently the Upper Hunter Shire Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected each year by a vote of the councillors. This will be the system used by 114 of the 152 NSW councils (as of the next election in 2016).
The alternative method for electing the Mayor is by popular vote by residents every four years, at the same time council elections are held. The position of Deputy Mayor would continue to be elected by the councilors.
If the survey indicates sufficient support for changing the system for electing the Mayor, the question could go to a referendum at the next Local Government elections, currently scheduled for September 2016.
The rules around Mayoral elections including which system is used, are determined by Section 227 of the Local Government Act 1993. The system for electing the Mayor cannot be changed without a referendum.
If a referendum proceeds the cost would be approximately $12,000 in addition to the estimated $120,000 cost for Council elections. A referendum undertaken at a different time to the ordinary election is estimated to cost around $90,000 and Council is not considering this option.
If a change to a popular vote was supported at the referendum, the new system would be implemented at the subsequent Council election, likely to occur in 2020. Candidates would then have the option of nominating for Councillor and / or the Mayor position and there would be two ballot papers for each election.
Upper Hunter Shire Council
Phone: 6540 1100
Upper Hunter Shire Council is a local government authority and provides an extensive array of services including health and building; town planning; aged care; sporting and recreational facilities; roads; libraries; garbage collection; airport facilities; saleyards; public venues; water; children, youth and families and tourist information.