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Multi-councillor divisions ‘best for Ipswich’

A review into Ipswich City Council’s internal electoral division boundaries has concluded that multi-councillor divisions are the best way forward for the city.

Following a month-long public consultation phase in March, ICC interim administrator Greg Chemello wrote in his report that the state government should endorse a multi-councillor divisional model for Ipswich, with 2-3 councillors should be elected to 4-6 divisions.

Advice came from other councils from throughout Australia, lawyers, governance professionals, and more than 1000 survey responses from the Ipswich public.

The survey offered three options: An undivided council with 8-12 councillors (Option 1); 8-12 Divisions with one councillor per division (Option 2); or the multi-councillor model (Option 3) favoured by Mr Chemello.

Ipswich City Council Interim Administrator Greg Chemello.

The interim administrator prepared the report, and handed it to Minister for Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe for his attention Tuesday morning.

“This has been a thorough exercise,” Mr Chemello said.

“I have come to the conclusion that – based on community feedback, a wide diversity of opinion and my own observations of council operations over the past eight months – that this is the best way forward.

“But the decision does not sit with me. Under the law, that’s the job for the state government to determine exactly how Ipswich’s council will be structured at the 2020 elections and beyond.”

In the report, Mr Chemello outlined six key reasons for his conclusions:

  • For the various communities of Ipswich, multi-councillor divisions will effectively deliver the local representation they are seeking at the same time as avoiding a return to the significant governance pitfalls experienced in the past.
  • While both single-councillor divided or undivided council models will please a significant proportion of residents, these models will also offend a significant proportion of residents, making Option 3 the least polarising option for the city.
  • Almost 90 per cent of survey respondents ranked Option 3 as either their first or second preference.
  • For those people whose first preference is ‘Option 1: Undivided Council’, 75 per cent of respondents cited Option 3 as their second preference.
  • For those people whose first preference is ‘Option 2: Divided – 1 councillor per division’, almost 90 per cent of respondents cited Option 3 as their second preference.
  • Only 11 per cent of respondents ranked Option 3 last.

“Throughout this period of interim administration, a number of failings and flaws have been identified by the interim administrator,” the report says.

“One governance concern is that there was far too much emphasis placed by councillors on a councillor’s own division and on operational issues; and not enough attention given to the citywide priorities and strategic issues.

“This approach, which is a contraction to the required role of councillors as prescribed in the Local Government Act, fostered a ‘tale of 10 small cities’ approach to leadership, rather than a whole-of-city commitment.”

The full report is here.

Statement from Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe

The government will evaluate Mr Chemello’s recommendation, which is based on feedback from more than 1000 Ipswich residents as part of a survey carried out in March.

Almost 90 per cent of survey respondents ranked multi-member divisions as their first or second preference.

We’ll now consider this recommendation to move to multi-councillor divisions before deciding whether to refer it to the Local Government Change Commission.

Ipswich residents are demanding a system of Local Government that better represents them and their interests, and that’s what we’re going to deliver.

Stirling Hinchliffe

Minister for Local Government

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