Western council counts councillors

PLENTY: Cobar Shire has one of the largest number of councillors for a NSW council, even though it has one of the smallest populations in the state.
PLENTY: Cobar Shire has one of the largest number of councillors for a NSW council, even though it has one of the smallest populations in the state.

​With 12 councillors, the question was asked at the Next Crop forum if Cobar shire was actually over-governed and council had become too unwieldy.

Neighbouring Bogan Shire has nine councillors and it believes it has the right mix to move community issues forward.

Cobar councillor Peter Yench advocated that the number of councillors on Cobar Shire should be reduced, to six councillors, and that there should be an end to the “jobs for mates” mentality, he claimed permeated some councils. He also advocated “a fitness to represent” test.

But changing the number of councillors is not an easy process, although many have done it. A motion has to pass council, then a referendum needs to be undertaken in the council area and then an application has to go to the NSW Local Government Minister for the change, whose say and approval is final.

The NSW Local Government Association does not have a view on what numbers of councillors should be on a council. “It is not something we would want to comment on,” LGA NSW president Linda Scott said.

Forbes councillor Phyllis Miller, who sits on the Australian board of the Local Government Association, said it was a matter of “horses for courses”. 

Forbes has nine councillors, which worked for it.

“It’s fair to say Cobar shire covers a large area (almost two-thirds the size of Tasmania) and maybe they need 12 councillors for such a big region,” she said.

“As a sector it’s not for us to have a view (on the number of councillors). Each council can go to their ratepayers  and ask for approval for a change.”

Bogan Shire council mayor Ray Donald said a lot of councils were lumbered with old ridings that made it compulsory to have a councillor for each riding (not the case in Cobar).

Bogan had got rid of its ridings structure some time ago.

Cr Donald said he found getting rid of ridings did not dissolve the voice of rural ratepayers in the council.  

He said a nine member council was  quite workable, and that an odd number such as nine helped with voting patterns and getting issues resolved.

Cobar councillor Tracey Kings said although she supported a reduction in councillors, she was worried that Cobar would lose two strong regional councillors if any reduction was made and that the town majority would not elect farming or regional councillors. 

This story Cobar counts councillors: is 12 too many to be productive? first appeared on The Land.