A community survey on whether to have a referendum on the preferred system for electing the Upper Hunter Shire Mayor will be undertaken in the next few months, it was decided at Council’s ordinary general meeting last night.
Currently the Upper Hunter Shire Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected each year by a vote of the councillors.
The alternative method for electing the Mayor is by popular vote by residents every four years, at the same time council elections are held.
If the survey indicates sufficient Upper Hunter Shire community 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.
The community survey of 400 randomly selected residents will be conducted by an independent company and is estimated to cost $9,000.
The cost of a subsequent referendum 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, it would be implemented at the subsequent Council election, likely to occur in 2020. Candidates would have the option of nominating for Councillor and / or the Mayor position and there would be two ballot papers for each election.
A petition was received by Council in 2013 with approximately 420 signatures requesting that the “People pick the Mayor” and 13 signatures supporting “Councillors pick the Mayor”.
Council’s response to the petition took into consideration the progress of two current Local Government Reviews which will potentially affect the roles and function of Mayors. For example the Local Government Act Review Panel has recommended changes to NSW law including the election of Mayors by councillors, occurring every two years instead of annually.
In pursuance of Section 226 of the Local Government Act, 1993, the role of the Mayor of Upper Hunter Shire Council is:-
(i) to exercise, in cases of necessity, the policy making functions of the Governing Body of the Council between meetings of the Council;
(ii) to preside at meetings of the Council; and
(iii) to carry out the civic and ceremonial functions of the mayoral office.
Upper Hunter Shire Council
Phone: 02 6540 1100
Fax: 02 6545 2671
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.