‘Old rivalries’ may return

LATROBE City Council candidates fear the new ward restructure, which will be introduced next week, could create a powerful ‘kingmaker’.

Announced in March, the Victorian Electoral Commission restructure has altered the previous nine ward, single councillor structure to four wards, represented by a one four-councillor ward, two two-councillor wards and a one councillor ward.

Councillor Graeme Middlemiss said the VEC foreshadowed a possibility the South Ward councillor could become the ‘kingmaker’.

South Ward, which spans from Mirboo North to Churchill, will have one councillor.

“I believe the old ward structure balanced out any problems of that (unfair representation) nature, but I am extremely wary of the new structure,” he said.

“What I am wary of is quite simply one block of votes could effectively control the entire city.”

During the restructure consultation process, the VEC received more than 880 submissions including about 800 letters from Moe And District Residents Association and Traralgon Community Development Association. The VEC expressed concern in its preliminary report the ward boundaries were similar to the old municipal boundaries, especially in the Traralgon-based East Ward, and ran the risk of giving “rise to old rivalries”.

South ward candidate Gilio Barbara said the restructure had divided the municipality “down the middle”. “(There is now) an ideal boundary to form a breakaway,” Mr Barbara said. “Not only that, the next council will only accentuate this division as it has given the East Ward the possibility of controlling four of the nine councillors to do their bidding. “The problems within this city has now been cemented and I am worried that our divisiveness will become worse rather than eradicated.”

The VEC Electoral Representation Review of Latrobe City Council, stated a number of submissions argued the nine-ward structure had been supported by the community since 2000, was working well and has enabled local representation.

One submitter was concerned any modifications “would threaten the advances made by council since amalgamation” and another stated only a “vocal minority” wanted change.