Election to put Bunbury council back to 13

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Candidates thinking of running in Bunbury’s Local Government Election encouraged to put their hands up.
Camera IconCandidates thinking of running in Bunbury’s Local Government Election encouraged to put their hands up. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

Bunbury City Council is set to return to a team of 13 this year with any chance of the council reducing its elected member numbers permanently all but quashed.

The council was left with a vacant seat in February last year when Joel McGuinness resigned for a career move to Victoria.

During a special meeting following the announcement, the council knocked back a recommendation for councillor numbers to be revisited and voted to not fill the vacancy until 2019.

The council is set to fill the position at its October election following support last week for another postal election.

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The suggestion last year to reconsider numbers was met with angst from several councillors with outgoing Cr McGuinness even labelling it “opportunistic”.

Mayor Gary Brennan said yesterday while the Local Government Act review would probably address the council numbers debate, he did not see any changes ahead of this year’s election.

“I think the Local Government Act reform probably will end up giving more guidance and even more direction on the maximum and minimum number of elected members on each council,” Mr Brennan said.

“The reform is a lengthy process ... I suspect it will take significant more time in the future, so I don’t expect there’d be any major changes before the 2019 elections.

“(For now) the council numbers are matters for the community to determine and that’s been dealt with in the past and the council at that time decided not to proceed with what the community wanted.

“However, that’s the right of the council of the day to determine that.”

The council held a referendum in 2015 when residents and ratepayers were asked whether councillor numbers should be cut from 12 to eight. The council blocked the move despite 52 per cent of voters supporting the cut.

Mr Brennan said it was time for any candidates thinking of putting their hat in the ring to start making plans and he was particularly keen to see the age cohort of 35 to 45 in the mix.

“There will be six vacancies and I’m looking forward to seeing a very competitive list of candidates giving the electors a real choice,” he said.

“We are well represented in the older demographic, I’m looking forward to more younger people putting their hands up to consider being elected onto council.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for people to put their hand up in that cohort and give more choice to the electors.

“Local Government today is very dynamic, it’s changing rapidly, our community is changing, there’s a whole lot of change in economic social areas, so it’s important that we have a good cohort of people who are in tune with that.

“I’m not suggesting the current councillors are not, but I’m looking forward to more of that cohort considering nominating for council.”

Councillors Murray Cook, Brendan Kelly, Betty McCleary, Sam Morris and Monique Warnock will all be at the end of their terms.

“The last two elections we’ve had a large field of candidates for councillor and/or mayor positions, so I’m looking forward to another strong field of nominations,” Mr Brennan said.

“I’ve already had discussions with some people who are interested in standing.

“So that’s really encouraging and if people are contemplating nominating for the City of Bunbury – there’s six vacancies for councillor positions – they should be thinking about it now.

“Because it does take a while to get a campaign organised and get everything in readiness for the actual election itself.”

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