Voters have their say

By Annabelle Beale

CHANGE has been forced in local government following a shock election result which has seen two councillors, including Latrobe City’s mayor, knocked out from chambers.

Council dynamics received a shake-up with three of the candidates, West Ward’s Michael Rossiter, Central Ward’s Christine Sindt and West Ward’s Peter Gibbons, replacing Latrobe City Mayor Ed Vermeulen and councillor Bruce Lougheed. Councillor Lisa Price did not stand for reelection.

Despite the election outcome being declared today, yesterday’s provisional results indicated those out of the 22 candidates vying for the nine councillor positions would take the seats of East Ward, Central Ward, South Ward and East Ward.

This change was foreshadowed by the Victorian Electoral Commission following its review and change of ward structure.

The VEC electoral representation review in November recommended a restructure of Latrobe City’s previous nine-ward, one-councillor structure. 

Following the preliminary report, released in January, the VEC received more than 800 submissions.

Over the weekend internet difficulties, miscalculated ballot papers and teething problems with the VEC computer system delayed counting, which was eventually completed late last night. 

In the fiercely contested East Ward, only Latrobe City councillor Sandy Kam garnered enough support in the election to hit ‘quota’ with 21 per cent of votes.

The ‘quota’ is determined by a formula calculated by dividing the total number of formal ballot papers by one more than the number of vacancies to be filled, and adding one to the result. 

With 2346 first preference votes, Mr Rossiter will join familiar East Ward faces; councillors Dale Harriman and Kellie O’Callaghan, who received 2800 and 2770 respectively.

Latrobe City councillor Darrell White dominated the contest for the South Ward seat against Gilio Barbara, reaping more than 70 per cent of the votes.

Councillor Sharon Gibson and candidate Peter Gibbons will represent the Moe and district’s West Ward, which Mr Gibbons described as the “change voters have been asking for”. 

Cr Gibson received the most votes with 2990 and Mr Gibbons received 2157, knocking mayor Ed Vermeulen from the chamber, who polled 1571 votes. 

“There was a genuine push for change right across the Moe, Morwell and Traralgon wards,” Mr Gibbons said. 

“The new representatives are on the back end of that push for change.”

In his new position as councillor, Mr Gibbons said he would fight for a “different stance for job creation”, investigate government and private enterprise investment as well as support new natural resource products.

He said disagreement surrounding the Moe Activity Centre Plan and opposition of the former Moe Early Learning Centre sale led Moe voters to demand for change within council. 

“I think (the sale of MELC) decision was the final straw that broke the camel’s back,” Mr Gibbons said.

“People could see they weren’t being listened to and therefore they needed change.”

Councillor Bruce Lougheed will hand over his Central Ward position to candidate Christine Sindt.

Dr Sindt has stood in three elections including Traralgon’s Dunbar Ward by-election in 2011. 

After hearing of her success at the election count, Dr Sindt said she was “humbled” and “had no idea”.

She received 2123 votes with Cr Lougheed receiving 1143. 

“The issues I have put out in my statement… have already started to be addressed,” Dr Sindt said. 

Her election statement promises included reducing council rates, addressing TAFE funding cuts and the landslide fears in Wallace Street, Morwell.

“I’d like to work together in a cooperative way with the rest of the councillors so Latrobe City continues to thrive and grow,” she said.

Councillors Vermeulen and Lougheed did not respond by time of publication.