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Residents lose electoral battle

27 Mar 2012

Docklands won’t be getting its own ward councillors with resident activists having lost their fight to subdivide the City of Melbourne into wards.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has reviewed the number of councillors and also whether or not the municipality should be subdivided.  

As reported in our February edition, the VEC’s January 23 preliminary report recommended an unsubdivided structure and the commission has confirmed this position in its final report released on March 21.

The commission rejected further arguments and submissions put forward by resident groups who believe only ward-based councillors can deliver representative local government.

The Docklands Community Association (DCA) was among the resident groups pushing for ward representation at council elections, however president Roger Gardner could not attend a public hearing to make a further oral submission on February 29.

The VEC said it examined all of the proposals put forward suggesting how the city could be subdivided, but each was flawed.

“They are workable models, complying with legal requirements and with generally clear ward boundaries, but they are not ideal vehicles for the representation of local communities of interest,” the VEC said.

“Population growth in the City of Melbourne is so rapid and uneven that it is difficult to draw boundaries that will last.”

The VEC implied that the residents’ groups which responded may not have been representative of the wider population.

“The release of the preliminary report was covered in the Herald Sun and the local newspapers, with little reaction,” it said. “Yet the quantity of submissions was less than in a number of suburban and regional representation reviews. The push for change was much weaker than might have been expected.”

It also pointed out that residents are, in fact, a minority of City of Melbourne voters.

“For the City of Melbourne, the non-resident property owners and corporation representatives who comprise 60 per cent of the electorate are legally enrolled, and are just as entitled to fair and equitable representation as the residents,” it said.

Business groups, it said, supported the status quo of a non-subdivided municipality.

“Submissions from business organisations, including the local Yarra River Business Association, were concerned with the welfare of the City of Melbourne as a whole rather than with local issues, and favoured an unsubdivided structure,” it said.

In summary, the VEC said:  “The complex links binding the various parts of the city suggest that the most appropriate electoral structure for Melbourne is an at-large electorate.”

“For these reasons – the need to represent all the voters, the common issues and links for all residents, Melbourne’s capital city responsibilities, and the desirability of avoiding subdivision reviews – the VEC considers that the current unsubdivided structure is the most appropriate one for the City of Melbourne.”

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