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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Tweed considers mayoral elections

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[author]Steve Spencer[/author]

Tweed residents will have two referendums to vote on later this year, one for a popularly elected mayor and the other on increasing the number of councillors from seven to nine.

Councillors this week decided to ask their opinion on the two issues which, if they get the nod, will not come into effect until 2016.

Cr Dot Holdom spoke against having a popularly elected mayor, saying she had seen them unable to work with councillors and staff and cause inefficiency in local government.

‘Be careful what you wish for. It’s just political jostling,’ warned Cr Holdom.

‘I have the right to elect the mayor and I’m sticking with that,’ she said.

Former mayor Warren Polglase said the mayor only had one vote and he had seen popularly elected mayors go against the wishes of their council and continue to push their own agenda in the media.

‘Mayors are expected to support policies they don’t agree with. But popularly elected mayors tend to continue pushing their own policies. It creates chaos,’ said Cr Polglase.

But Cr Katie Milne said a mayoral vote could provide more balance during council meetings.

’Many councils have popularly elected mayors. It should be up to the people to decide, but it won’t make a huge amount of difference.’

Former mayor Joan van Lieshout said not everybody has leadership potential but she thought 12 months was not enough time for a mayor to get used to the top job.

’You wouldn’t do that to a board member of a company. You may end up with a bad mayor for four years but that is the voters’ decision. It may be the only way you can get the council to work properly.’

Councillors Kevin Skinner, Milne, Barry Longland and van Lieshout voted to have the referendum.

Later councillors argued whether the council would function better with nine or 11 councillors instead of the present seven.

Before the council was sacked in 2005 there were 11 shire councillors, but administrators, including long-serving former mayor Max Boyd, dropped the number to seven.

Cr Longland opposed the referendum saying the pre-administration council had worked poorly, with a block of councillors controlling many of the decisions.

‘Six councillors were every much out of the same stable, even if it did cost $500,000 to get them there,’ he said.

‘There is more diversity in this council than in the one that was sacked.’

Cr Polglase and deputy mayor Phil Youngblutt then both shouted ‘rubbish’.

Cr Phil Youngblutt said more is better than less.

’We have the largest population of any shire on the north coast. Some shires have just 2000 people and more councillors than we do,’ he said.

Cr Holdom said she was happy with seven councillors.

‘I think it has worked well and it has saved ratepayers money. It’s a workable number. We can all ring each other up and have a chat about things,’ she said.

Cr Katie Milne said councillors cost each ratepayer about 20 cents a year, so money wasn’t an issue.

‘It is an enormous workload. More councillors would help avoid tied votes,’ she said.

‘In the old days we had 11 councillors and it was still difficult to get a response from some of them. More councillors could be the best investment this shire could ever have.


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