New England councils may run 2020 local government elections themselves

TOO SLOW: NSW Election Commission staff spent five days counting votes for Tamworth council. Photo. Gareth Gardner 130916GGB03

TOO SLOW: NSW Election Commission staff spent five days counting votes for Tamworth council. Photo. Gareth Gardner 130916GGB03

NEW England councils will investigate running their own local government elections, after Gunnedah Shire proved it could be done cheaper and faster than the NSW Electorate Commission.

For the second time, Gunnedah Shire saved more than $30,000 and delivered the result up to three days earlier by doing it themselves.

Liverpool Plains mayor Andrew Hope said given it was an opportunity for councils to save money, it was “certainly something that had to be looked at”.

“I'd like to see a fairly high-level report wrapped around it, and see how the process works before any change is made,” Cr Hope said.

“It's important to uphold the transparency and arm's-length distance the NSW Electoral Commission brings. The community would be hard on you if it though the election wasn't transparent.”

Walcha Shire general manager Jack O'Hara said his council had previously weighed up the risks against the savings.

“The general manager can't be involved in council-run elections and we didn't have the expertise in house, so we would have outsourced,” Mr O'Hara said.

Down the track Walcha may consider running its own election, or even do it in cooperation with another council.

Moree Plains Shire mayor Katrina Humphries said her council did consider running its own election, but felt it lacked the resources and knowledge – but will “definitely” looked at it again four years' time.

“Gunnedah seem to do it very well, maybe they'll be able to share a bit of their knowledge,” Cr Humphries said.

Moree didn't know the results of its election until Saturday, which Cr Humphries found “unacceptable”.

“In 2012 we found out on Thursday, so I don't know how the [voting technology] has gone backwards in four years,” she said.

Uralla Shire mayor Michael Pearce had “no doubt” it would be discussed in the council next term. “Any cost savings council can pass on to the community is a no-brainer,” he said.

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