Ward structures - deciding for or against | NTEC

Ward structures - deciding for or against

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The committee may determine:

  • if a local government area is divided into wards:
    • that the local government area remain divided into the same wards or be divided into different wards; or
    • that the local government area should not be divided into wards; or
  • if a local government area is not divided into wards:
    • that the local government area remain that way; or
    • that the local government area should be divided into wards.

A council with wards

  • Wards guarantee some form of direct representation to all parts of the council area and existing communities of interest.
  • Undivided councils can result in all councillors residing in the same part of a council area, especially if it has a higher population. Ward elections encourage candidates from different parts of the council and potentially result in greater diversity of backgrounds, skills, experience and opinions among the elected members.
  • Elected members of wards can focus on local issues as well as council-wide issues.
  • Elected members of wards are more likely to be known to their ward constituents.
  • Elections for a whole council area may attract a large number of candidates which can be confusing or burdensome for voters when choosing their preferences when voting. A council that is divided into wards should lessen the number of candidates per ward.
  • A smaller number of candidates on a ballot papers reduces the informal voting rate. For example, at the 2017 Alice Springs Town Council elections, there were 2 candidates for mayor and 19 for councillor positions. The informality rates were 2.0% (mayor) and 11.7% (councillors), by the same group of electors.
  • If a councillor resigns, a by-election would only need to be held for one ward, rather than for the whole council area. This significantly reduces the election costs for the council as only electors within one ward are required to vote.
  • From a candidate’s perspective, less campaigning resources and efforts are required for a smaller ward area compared with having to canvass an entire council area.

A council without wards

  • An undivided council promotes the concept of a council-wide focus with councillors being elected by, and concerned for, the council area as a whole rather than smaller, potentially insular interests.
  • It gives residents and ratepayers a choice of councillors to approach with their concerns.
  • Each voter has the opportunity to express a preference for every candidate contesting the council area.
  • It removes the need to define internal ward boundaries. Ward boundaries may be difficult to define and may result in divided communities of interest.
  • Current legislation allows for candidates to stand for a ward they do not live in, as long as they live in the council area. This means that subdividing a council into wards will not necessarily result in all wards being represented by people who reside within that ward.
  • Elected members of wards generally consider themselves to represent not only their ward but the council as a whole and therefore the need for wards may be questionable.
  • While wards are likely to attract a lower number of candidates than a whole council area, it also makes it more likely that it may not attract enough candidates, resulting in an uncontested election or the requirement for a supplementary election.
  • Separate wards may mean that a candidate in one ward is elected on a smaller number of votes than a candidate achieved in another ward (and the candidate with more votes in their ward did not win a position due to other candidates in that ward receiving more votes).

The following information may assist you when making a submission.

Areas of consideration

Councils with existing ward structures

Areas you may want to consider in your submission (please provide reasons supporting your comments):

  • keeping the current ward structure
  • changing the current ward boundaries
  • changing the number of members per ward

s Please note: the committee cannot make decisions about the total number of members prescribed for the council area; therefore, your suggestion on members per ward must add up to the total number of members prescribed

  • adding or removing one or more wards
  • splitting or combining existing wards
  • Abolishing wards in the council area altogether

Ward names

While the committee cannot make decisions about ward names it can make recommendations to the Minister for Local Government.

You may:

  • suggest ward names if you have submitted comments about additional or new wards
  • suggest a current ward name is changed

Councils without existing ward structures

If you are suggesting a council introduces a ward structure, and commenting on how that structure looks, you may want to consider the following in your submission (please provide reasons supporting your comments):

  • number of wards
  • number of members per ward

s Please note: the committee cannot make decisions about the total number of members prescribed for the council area; therefore, your suggestion on members per ward must add up to the total number of members prescribed

  • ward boundaries

Ward names

While the committee cannot make decisions about ward names it can make recommendations to the Minister for Local Government.

You may:

  • suggest ward names if you have submitted comments supporting the introduction of wards

Areas of recommendation

In addition to ward names, the committee does not have the power to make decisions on the subjects listed below. It can, however, make recommendations to the Minister for Local Government if it believes those recommendations are beneficial. You can provide comments on these matters, and reasons supporting your comments, in your submission.

  • council name
  • external boundaries of a council area
  • inclusion of current unincorporated land into a council area
  • process by which the principal member (mayor/president) is chosen
  • total number of elected members for a council area

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