Voters in the Upper Hunter Shire will be asked their preference for the Mayoral election system, in a Constitutional Referendum to be held at the same time as the next Upper Hunter Shire Council elections due in September 2016.
If a majority of Upper Hunter Shire voters support a change to the system it will be introduced at the subsequent Local Government Election due in 2020.
Mayor Wayne Bedggood said the Council decision was guided by the results of an independent survey conducted this month.
“Around two out of three people supported having a referendum on the Mayoral election system and around three out of four supported the Mayor being elected by popular vote every four years instead of by the nine Councillors each year,” Cr Bedggood said.
Currently the Upper Hunter Shire Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected each year by a vote of the Councillors. The majority of NSW councils use the system where the councillors vote for the Mayor.
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 Councillors.
Council commissioned an independent survey this month of 400 Upper Hunter Shire residents over the age of 17 years asking whether they wished to have a referendum on the preferred system for electing the Mayor, and their preference for that system. This survey was a response to a petition submitted to Council.
The results of that survey were that 64 per cent of respondents indicated that Council should hold a referendum to determine community support for a popularly elected Mayor, and 36 per cent did not support holding a referendum.
Support for the Mayor being elected by voters was at 76 per cent while 24 per cent preferred the Mayor be elected by Councillors.
The rules around Mayoral elections, including which system is used, are by the Local Government Act 1993. The system for electing the Mayor cannot be changed without a referendum.
Councillors made the decision at tonight’s (29 March) Ordinary General Meeting to hold the referendum on the Mayoral election system, after reviewing the results of the survey.
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.