Community driven

AFTER months of campaigning for change, community groups have welcomed the region’s electorate restructure with cautious optimism.

The Victorian Electoral Commission’s final report released last week recommended four wards, represented by nine councillors, with a new boundary structure.

“This is the start of change, not the end of it,” Moe and District Residents Association secretary Cheryl Wragg said.

“The structure (put forward by the VEC) itself is an expression of change that the community wants.

“The current structure is not representative and has led to a disengagement by the community.

“Hopefully we will be able to vote in a better council by the next election.”

A record number of public submissions by Latrobe Valley residents were received by the VEC regarding the structure review.

More than 730 submissions comprising of letters and individually prepared online submissions had been received.

“It’s pleasing the VEC has undertaken a thorough review and heard and responded to the mood of change in Latrobe City,” Ms Wragg said.

“The ward structure (suggested by the VEC) provides an important opportunity for improvement and it’s up to the residents to act on that opportunity.”

The recommended structure consists of one four-councillor ward, two two-councillor wards and one single-councillor ward.

“We support a multi-member ward structure, it enables better cooperation. The Local Government Act electoral structure provides fair and equitable representation and a multi-member ward only enhances that,” Ms Wragg said.

In support of the multi-councillor ward structure was Traralgon Community Development Association.

“It’s a good model but no structure is necessarily perfect,” TCDA secretary Bruce Bremner said.

Advance Morwell welcomed the changes, but rejected claims the recommendations would overcome MADRA and TCDA concerns of a “voting bloc”.

“This (VEC review) all started because a Traralgon group believed there was a four to five voting group, there are still nine councillors,” Mr Guy said.

He said the restructure would “change the dynamics” of council, which would be seen during the October elections.

“The VEC had a difficult job; it was fairly evident in the hearings that they got the message they needed to do something,” Mr Guy said.

“I suppose this is a good compromise.

Also welcoming the recommendations with cautious optimism was the Churchill and District Community Association.

In its two submissions to the commissioner, the CDCA asked for an electorate representation which pushed for “greater accountability” within council.

“In many ways it is something each elected representative has to take on board, whether you have a single-ward councillor or multi-ward councillors; each of those people have to have accountability as part of their role,” CDCA president Margaret Guthrie said.

In response to whether this was the change the community was seeking, Ms Guthrie said “it remains to be seen, the jury is still out”.

If Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell endorses the recommendation, changes to Latrobe City Council will be put in place for the next council general election to be held on Saturday, 27 October.