Divisional boundaries: Residents have their say

Ipswich residents have provided valuable feedback in the first week of council’s consultation period on divisional boundaries in Ipswich for the March 2020 local government elections and beyond.

About 450 people have so far responded to council’s call for residents to get involved and have their say on the future of the city.

Interim Administrator Greg Chemello launched a discussion paper on 1 March offering three options on divisional boundaries for consideration, with each model resulting in a minimum of eight councillors and a maximum of 12 councillors being elected:

  1. Undivided
  2. Divided – 1 councillor per division (8-12 divisions)
  3. Divided – 2 or 3 councillors per division (4-6 divisions)

“We have had about 450 responses so far – an incredibly positive response from residents,” Mr Chemello said.

“All three models are receiving strong support at this stage.”

Residents have all of March to have their say: do you want your councillors to be elected on a divisional basis or across the entirety of the Ipswich region?

There is also a public information forum on 25 March, where elected representatives from other cities speak about their experiences with each of the models, and talk openly about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

“The discussion paper also talks about some of the perceived pros and cons of each model, so we encourage people to read through it, and share with us which way they would prefer council to go,” Mr Chemello said.

“We are incredibly grateful to the community for their views and advice – so many residents have taken the time to share their views, not just fill in the survey.

“Council should be in a position to release more details on the community info night – including the three speakers – next week.”

Ipswich First wants to share what the community has had to say about divisional boundaries during the first week of consultation. We have kept all responses anonymous.  These are direct quotes from Ipswich residents…

  1. It is important that future councillors have the background, intellect and capacity to immerse themselves in strategic decision making of a high order. It is a waste to have elected representatives obsessing about shopping trolleys, local parking issues and local issues. Council should have a community engagement framework that can accommodate these issues using staff and not councillors. The problems at Ipswich can partly be held at the foot of councillors who were unable to properly consider strategic issues and did not fully understand the role of local government. Councillors need to be able to work within a shared vision for the City of Ipswich and not devote their attentions to, in the scheme of things, petty local issues that can be better managed by staff.
  1.   We live in a democratic society which gives us the right to select who will represent our views and needs in Ipswich City Council. The undivided model does not lend itself to true democratic representation.
  1. A major disadvantage of the undivided model is not considered in the “Disadvantages” listed. On past practices in Ipswich, each division averages three candidates leading to about 30 candidates across the region. Given the recent upheaval in council, this number may be significantly exceeded. There is no way an elector can make informed judgements about such a large number of candidates (similar to the senate ballot paper in many ways). This results in uninformed or poorly informed choices and councillors elected on insignificant % of votes. It virtually guarantees a council with little real popular support. It can and does work in less populated rural areas where the opportunity to know individual candidates is much greater. It would be a disaster in a diverse region such as Ipswich ranging from the heavily populated urban areas of Springfield and eventually Ripley to small rural communities such as Rosewood.
  1. It’s most important to not fall into the same pattern as previously. Having multiple councillors for each division should alleviate poor choices in regards to expenditure ensuring some level of oversight. Perhaps an added measure of candidate morale would be to have all candidates complete a Justices of the Peace course or similar prior to acceptance on the ballot.
  1. I genuinely believe that the person who represents us should reside within the area they represent. It’s very important to understand the issues unique to each division.
  1. Keep same suburbs within divisions instead of splitting suburbs between divisions.
  1. Significant cultural and governance problems stemmed from councillors having ‘fiefdoms’, which was caused by each councillor responsible for one division. Representing and setting strategic direction for the entire city should be the focus for all. The concern for Divided – 2 to 3 councillors per division is that councillors will either work against each other to compete for votes… or form a ‘bloc’ where their divisional interests and personal agenda overwhelm others.
  1. I believe the role of a Councillor should be part time and not full time position. I also believe a Councillor should only serve two consecutive terms. This would allow for greater community participation and would not require Councillors to forego their occupation or profession.
  1. There should four or five divisions each with two councillors made up of one male and one female so that there will always be an even number of men and women councillors.
  1. We need divisional representatives to ensure our local areas are properly serviced. In my experience, it has been beneficial to have a councillor in my area to raise important issues directly with and seek solutions; rather than having that become part of a wider group that will undoubtedly place less emphasis on my local needs. Local representatives covering my area have always been helpful in my 30 plus years as an Ipswich resident.
  1. An undivided model would go some way to stopping elected councillors from creating their own little enclaves which were one of the factors in the disgrace that was council previously. I want the model that is most likely to provide cohesion and representation of the city as a whole – ie. where all councillors are obliged to be across the issues for the whole city not just those in a particular division, which has been the case in the past, even despite the fact that they were meant to be across all issues. I would like to see proper education of new councillors on their responsibilities. I see the fact that candidates would have to campaign across the whole city as a small price to pay for more cohesion and it would require that they prove they understand the needs of the whole city and not just those of their divisions.
  2. Divisions are important. Local councillors should be responsible and accountable to specific areas of the city. We do not need to turn into a mini state government, I want my local councillor to understand my area and be accessible.
  1.     Moving to an undivided council requires the elected members to represent the whole of Ipswich not only their division. This enables scarce resources to be invested in priority areas rather than the divisions where the councillor has the louder voice.
  1. If divisional boundaries are in place, I would like to see rural communities represented separately from urban communities. Councillors should have a use by date, maybe two or three terms, with one extra as Mayor elect.
  1. No need for divisions. Can still have a good and fair representation of the community across all of Ipswich without dividing Ipswich up into sections. Councillors cannot lobby to get more for their divisions if there are no borders.

In April, Ipswich City Council will present findings of the community engagement period to the State Government, which is ultimately responsible for any changes to the way council is structured.

Public Information Session

A public information session will be held later this month. The session will feature three guest speakers from relevant local government areas who will be presenting on the three models and will be available to answer your questions.

Date: Monday, 25 March 
Time: 6.00 pm 
Location: North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre
2B Pine Street, North Ipswich

For more information or to request a hard copy of the survey please email: [email protected] or call  (07) 3810 6666.

Ipswich First

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