The Local Government Association of NSW will go into bat for the Dubbo Regional Council and lobby the state government to remove its controversial ward system.
But a chasm has developed between the mayor and the deputy mayor over the move.
The mayor believes returning Dubbo to one ward would be easier for voters. The deputy believes that due to the minimum number of votes required to get elected to council, Wellington candidates may not gain enough votes compared to Dubbo candidates to get a seat on council.
Mayor Ben Shields said there was near universal outrage at the last election about the ward system.
“I don’t know how many times we have to tell the state government that it simply doesn’t work in Dubbo,” he said.
“I appreciate that Wellington needs a separate ward so they can keep their identity, but there is no reason to cut Dubbo into four separate wards. We want a simple system to have eight councillors elected from one Dubbo ward and two Wellington councillors elected from one Wellington ward.”
But, deputy mayor Anne Jones OAM said she does not support a change to the current ward structure.
“If we were to change the wards back to the former version the representation from Wellington would be greatly diminished,” she said.
“The people of Dubbo do no know the councillors who represent the ward of Wellington and on that basis would not vote for those who are standing within the Wellington ward.
“I think it is important to acknowledge that whomever represents the Wellington ward knows the people and understands their needs. We are talking about two different communities, one is a rural community and one is a city community, their needs are quite different.”
Cr Shields said he hopes LGNSW would be able to convince the state government to change the current system.
“The association will now lobby for us and we will continue to put pressure on state candidates for the seat of Dubbo to change the ward system back to the previous less confusing model,” he said.
“We’d like to see the government do it now and stop mucking around, but realistically we’d like to see this solved by the next council election.”