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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

Cost of running local council elections has jumped 131%

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Voting day at Seagulls during previous local council election. Photo Aslan Shand

2024 will see the next NSW local government elections being held on 24 September with local councils required to confirm that they are able to run the elections by 13 March 2023. 

However, the increase the cost of running an election for council has seen Tweed Shire Council ask why the cvosts appear to have jumped by ‘131 per cent’ according to Tweed Councillor James Owen (Liberal).

‘The cost of the election in 2012 was $367,641. In 2016 it rose 49 per cent, by $150,000;  2021 was $962,000. We did get some of that back apparently as COVID puts the cost of elections up significantly. I do understand why that might have been the case,’ Cr Owens told his fellow councillors. 

‘But the increase from 2016 to 2021 was 74 per cent. So from 2012 to 2024 – my maths isn’t the best – but it’s about 131 per cent increase in the cost of running an election for council.

‘Inflation in that time has gone up about 34 per cent, so I don’t get why. And I just think it’s incumbent on us to push back and go push back much harder.’

Cr Owen and Tweed Shire general manager Troy Green both pointed out that significant costs were based on the number of staff and facilities required by the electoral commission to facilitate the election. 

‘The biggest [election] cost that we get is in relation to the number of polling booths that are held within the Tweed Shire. And we have consistently asked that some of those booths be consolidated and that there are less. There are some booths where 200 people vote with asked to be less for a number of reasons.’

Mr Green said that it was difficult for candidates to get volunteers at all 36 voting booths and pre-poll booths to ensure voters were well informed during the election voting period as well as the overall costs of staff to run the booths and hire of the facilities.  

‘We have to election booths that are opposite each other,’ said Cr Owen. ‘I mean, who can’t get the Electoral Commission to see that that’s just stupid.’

Voting day at Seagulls during previous council election. Photo Aslan Shand

Council shouldn’t run the election

General Manager Troy Green said that it would not be appropriate for the council staff to run the election and would most likely cost more. He said that there were only two organsiations Make elections cheaper

The burgeoning costs associated with running local government elections and the need to reduce this cost became a key part of the debate with the councillors determinging to defer their decision to 2 March so that staff could ‘approach the NSW Electoral Commission requesting a revised cost with reduced booths on polling day and pre poll which would result in lower staffing and facility hire fees’. 

They also added a second point that Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) advocates for a 40 per cent reduction in costs for the elections for flood-affected communities through the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation that represents the Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed NSW local government areas. 

The final point of the motion was for the ‘General Manager writes to the Minister of Local Government requesting a rebate of 40 per cent for flood-affected communities holding elections in 2024.’

All councillors voted in favour.

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  1. I don’t agree with James Owen on a lot of things, but he’s right to question why there are two polling booths literally across the road from each other in Banora Pt.


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