A July 2 Election, and Goodbye From Highlands Votes

With two elections this year – the Federal Election just confirmed for July 2 and Council elections on September 10 – it has become clear that Highlands Votes will be unable to cover them.

Highlands Votes was founded four years ago ahead of the 2012 council elections with a view to providing another voice in local election and political coverage. At the time, I felt that existing outlets were too tied up commercial imperatives to bother with proper coverage, a problem that has only gotten worse over time.

Unfortunately, it is clear that few councillors take this kind of outlet seriously. They are not interested in responding and providing information in detail about their plans. This may be because I am perceived to be a partisan writer, even though I have been loudly critical of all candidates and parties where warranted. It may be that they simply don’t feel the need to be open and honest with the public. The federal and state candidates I’ve interviewed in the last four years have been significantly more willing to talk than councillors. Whatever the case, this has hampered my ability to cover elections and council in particular in ways I would have wanted.

I had hoped other writers would come on board and offer their take. I repeatedly offered councillors the chance to have un-edited op-eds published, but none took up the opportunity. This meant all content development has come down to what little time I have available outside of my day job and community activities.

In the last four years, I got married, had cancer, and started (and have nearly finished) a PhD thesis. At the time of writing, the thesis in particular is my main focus, and detracts significantly from any time I can dedicate to this site.

I will leave the site live for awhile, but I won’t be actively updating it. Thanks for reading.

~ Travis Holland

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Council Prepares for Poll

The state government has announced, by way of a letter to mayors that Wingecarribee Shire Council will have an election on September 10 this year.

Councils that are currently subject to a merger proposal will have their elections postponed until March 2017, while all others will proceed this year as scheduled.

Local Government Minister Paul Toole told mayors that “it is anticipated that any councils that are merged… may not be adequately prepared for a 10 September 2016 election.”

However, “For councils not subject to a merger proposal that is under examination, ordinary elections will proceed on this date.”

As Wingecarribee is not subject to a merger proposal, voters can expect to go to the polls in September.

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SMH Publishes Rumours of Liberal Pre-Selection Challenges

In an emotive and hyperbolic article, the Sydney Morning Herald writes that various factions of the Liberal Party are planning pre-selection challenges against “half-a-dozen high profile federal MPs in NSW”.  Continue reading

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Wingecarribee Avoids Widespread Amalgamations

A map showing a series of proposed council mergers indicates that Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Shires will avoid any moves to amalgamate, despite the state government slashing by 40 the number of councils across NSW.

The Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole today briefed councils on their fate, and reiterated the financial incentives on offer for councils that do amalgamate.

The Premier also said amalgamations would be referred to the Boundaries Commission under existing rules, squashing rumours that a revised local government act would grant the Minister widespread new powers.

While Wingecarribee will avoid this process, proposed mergers in a number of neighbouring councils will come before the Commission in the new year. Amongst these are: Goulburn Mulwaree swallowing part of Palerang; Shellharbour and Wollongong to merge; and Kiama and Shoalhaven to merge.

To accommodate the timetable for mergers, it is likely local government elections scheduled for September 2016 will take place in March 2017 instead.

In Sydney, 43 councils will be amalgamated into 25, while in regional NSW there is a target of 87 councils, down from 109 currently.

Full proposals will be available later today on a new website.

map (1)_Page_2

map (1)_Page_1

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A Capital On the Highlands

By Brendan Ashton on Flickr
Canberra, by Brendan Ashton on Flickr

Did you know that Bowral, Moss Vale and Goulburn all thought themselves contenders for the site of Australia’s capital city? A meeting was held at the Bowral School of Arts on Wednesday, March 1, 1899 to advocate for just such a development.

Continue reading

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The Chamber Rolls On

Mayor Larry Whipper
Mayor Larry Whipper

As Wingecarribee Shire Council goes to the community seeking a special rate variation of up to 46% over four years, 2ST and the Southern Highland News last week reported there was more “unrest in the chamber”. Continue reading

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Redistributions Are Here Again

The Australian Electoral Commission has released proposals for the redistribution of New South Wales electorates, as part of it’s regular review to ensure citizens around the country have equally valuable votes. Continue reading

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OPINION: Leadership Spills in Canberra and Moss Vale

The Shire's new Mayor, Cr Larry Whipper
The Shire’s new Mayor, Cr Larry Whipper

In a week where all eyes were on Canberra as Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott for leadership of the Liberal Party and the nation, Wingecarribee Shire’s leadership also faced a coup.

The Mayor Duncan Gair was turfed out in the annual September circus, meaning we’ve now had three mayors in this term of council. Larry Whipper takes up the mayoral chains and said his priorities will be “to ensure councillors work together towards common goals that will benefit and progress our community.”

Given council’s record of code of conduct complaints this term – the most of any council in the state – it seems unlikely that they will be able to pull together under Cr Whipper’s leadership.

The new Deputy Mayor is Ian Scandrett.

The new mayor added: “Just some of the issues I believe our community wants us to action include improving Council infrastructure and services, investigating green initiatives and exploring greater opportunities for our youth.”

Unfortunately for Wingecarribee, it seems only one of the two leadership coups was legal. The Southern Highland News reports that because council did not give notice of the meeting or publish business papers, it may fall foul of the Local Government Act 1992 (NSW).

Cr Garry Turland certainly thought it did, and refused to take part in the vote. The Office of Local Government has reportedly said it is in contact with Wingecarribee Shire Council.

Meanwhile this week, the state government announced it was placing Hurstville Council into administration because the local government minister “has lost confidence in the council’s ability to conduct itself properly.”

Hurstville Councillors will get a three-month breather while an administrator takes over.

Given the apparent contravention of the Local Government Act and the huge waste of resources invested into code of conduct complaints by Wingecarribee, the ability of a council to conduct it’s business properly seems to be at a rather high threshold.

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