Central Coast council election, 2017

Central Coast council covers the entire Central Coast region between Sydney and the Hunter region. The council is bounded at the southern edge by the Hawkesbury River and at the northern edge by Lake Macquarie. The council extends from Patonga in the south to Lake Munmorah in the north, and also covers Gosford, Woy Woy, Erina, Kariong, Copacabana, Avoca Beach, Umina Beach, Wyoming, Niagara Park, Wamberal, Terrigal, Bateau Bay, Killarney Vale, Berkeley Vale, Tuggerah, Wyong, The Entrance, Budgewoi and Toukley. The new council has a population of about 331,000 as of 2014.

Council amalgamations
Central Coast council is an amalgamation of the former Gosford and Wyong councils. The former Gosford council covered southern parts of the Central Coast, and had a population of 172,000 people as of 2014. The former Wyong council covered northern parts of the Central Coast, and had a population of 159,000 people as of 2014.

Central Coast is divided into five wards, with each ward electing three councillors.

Budgewoi ward covers the north-eastern corner of the new council. The ward covers those suburbs previously contained in Wyong council on the southern end of Lake Macquarie, including Lake Munmorah, Moonee, Gwandalan, Chain Valley Bay, Doyalson, Budgewoi, Toukley, Charmhaven and Buff Point.

Gosford East ward covers south-eastern parts of the new council, including Erina, Terrigal, Kincumber, Avoca Beach, Copacabana and Saratoga.

Gosford West ward covers the south-west of the new council, including the rural hinterland of the former Gosford council, as well as the suburbs of Gosford, Kariong, Woy Woy, Umina Beach and Ettalong Beach.

The Entrance ward covers the suburbs on the southern side of Tuggerah Lakes, including The Entrance, Berkeley Vale, Killarney Vale, Bateau Bay and Forresters Beach.

Wyong ward covers the north-west of the council, including Wyong, Tacoma, Tuggerah, Warnervale, Tuggerawong, Wallarah, Ourimbah, Niagara Park, Narara, Wyoming and North Gosford.

History – Gosford
Gosford has been dominated by neither major party over the last decade, with Labor and Liberal parties sharing power with a sizeable independent bloc.

The 2004 election saw the Labor and Liberal parties each win two seats, alongside one Green and four independents, including two members of Laurie Maher’s Central Coast First ticket.

Liberal councillor Malcolm Brooks was elected mayor in 2004. In 2005, the ballot was split 5-5 for Brooks and for independent Laurie Maher, whose name was drawn out of the hat.

Maher was re-elected in 2006, and then in 2007 Labor’s Jim McFadyen defeated conservative Chris Holstein 6-3.

The 2008 election saw a swing from independents to the Liberal and Greens parties. The Liberal Party won four seats, alongside two Labor councillors, two Greens councillors and two independents.

An alliance was formed between the four Liberal councillors and the two independents. Liberal councillor Chris Holstein won the mayoralty in 2008 and 2009. He went on to win the state seat of Gosford at the 2011 state election.

In 2010, independent Laurie Maher succeeded Chris Holstein – throughout the term the Liberal-independent alliance voted down Labor and Greens mayoral opposition each year. Maher won a final term as mayor in 2011.

The 2012 election saw the arrival of a new political force, with Lawrie McKinna’s team winning two council seats, alongside four Liberals, two Labor councillors, one Greens councillor and one other independent. McKinna served as mayor for the entire council term, until the council was abolished in 2016.

History – Wyong
Wyong council’s last decade saw relatively weak support for the two major parties, with a large number of independents serving on the council. This has resulted in a team of independents controlling the mayoralty for the final eight years of the council.

Labor dominated the Wyong mayoralty throughout the 1990s, holding the office from 1993 until 1995 and again from 1997 until 2001. Doug Eaton interrupted Labor’s rule in 1996, and Labor lost the mayoralty in 2002.

The 2004 election saw a large number of independents win seats. Labor won three seats, and the Liberal Party won two seats, while five independents were elected, including sitting mayor Greg Best and former mayor Doug Eaton. Liberal councillor Brenton Pavier became mayor in 2004, and was succeeded in 2005 by independent Bob Graham. Graham was replaced by Labor’s Warren Welham after two terms.

The 2008 election saw Labor and Liberal hold their respective three and two seats. Four independents were elected, including Best, Eaton and Graham, and the Greens won their first seat.

Bob Graham and Doug Eaton shared the mayoralty in the 2008-2012 term, with Eaton holding the office from 2010 to 2011 and Graham holding office from 2008 to 2010 and again from 2011 to 2012.

Labor again won three seats in 2012, and the Liberal Party again won two. Graham, Eaton and Best were all re-elected, while the other two seats went to candidates from the Save Tuggerah Lakes group. Eaton served as mayor from 2012 until the council was abolished in 2016.

Candidate summary
The Greens and Save Tuggerah Lakes will both be running candidates. Former Australian cricketer Nathan Bracken is planning to run as an independent candidate.

Voting figures for independents in Gosford and Wyong are remarkably strong. When you look at urban councils, independents tend to do best in places where the major parties do not contest, such as the north shore. Even there, many of those independents are actually proxies for those absent parties, and we’ve seen parties gradually intrude on so-called ‘independent’ territory in places like Sutherland, Hornsby, the Hills and Camden.

In contrast, the Labor and Liberal parties ran full tickets across both councils in 2012. Gosford council has no wards, and Wyong was only divided into two wards, which required independents to campaign across quite large areas. Despite these factors, the independent vote was very strong on both councils. Independents and local parties won six out of ten seats on Wyong council, while Lawrie McKinna managed to hold on as Gosford mayor for four straight years.

We don’t have a full picture about which independents will stand, but you’d expect Wyong independents like Doug Eaton, Bob Graham and Greg Best to do well – if they manage to organise themselves so that each candidate stands in a different ward, there is enough of an anti-party vote to elect all three of them.

It appears likely that former Gosford mayor Lawrie McKinna won’t return to council politics, but this leaves room for a strong independent to claim a seat in either Gosford East or Gosford West ward.

While the Central Coast has proven to be a strong area for local council independents, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Labor’s performance rebound, after encouraging results in the area at the 2015 state election and 2016 federal election.

2012 council result

Party Votes % % where contested
Liberal 54,021 31.2 31.2
Labor 40,102 23.2 23.2
Lawrie McKinna 18,428 10.6 20.3
Greens 16,294 9.4 9.4
Save Tuggerah Lakes 11,465 6.6 13.9
Bob Graham 8,610 5.0 21.8
Greg Best 8,287 4.8 19.2
Craig Doyle 6,407 3.7 7.1
Ian Kilpatrick 4,300 2.5 4.7
Doug Eaton 3,806 2.2 9.6
Ren Wagner 1,297 0.7 1.4
Jason Tomich 204 0.1 0.2

Ward breakdown – federal
Since there are different factors in each local council election, I’ve included the results of the 2013 federal election to give a sense of underlying support.

The Liberal Party won both of the seats covering this council area in 2013, so it’s no surprise that they won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote in four out of five areas, ranging from over 55% in Gosford East to barely 50% in Wyong. Labor won over 56% in Budgewoi.

A similar pattern can be seen in the priamry vote: Budgewoi is Labor heartland, while Gosford East is slightly more pro-Liberal than the other three wards. Gosford West and The Entrance are in the middle, while Wyong ward is the second-most pro-Labor ward.

The Greens vote is around 4-6% in all five areas, far below the 25% quota.

Ward LIB 2PP % LIB % ALP % GRN % OTH %
Budgewoi 43.9 37.3 45.4 4.8 12.5
Gosford East 55.4 45.8 33.1 5.6 15.6
Gosford West 51.2 42.1 36.1 5.7 16.1
The Entrance 51.7 42.7 35.1 4.7 17.5
Wyong 50.5 40.3 34.9 5.3 19.4

Ward breakdown – 2012 council results
I have also broken down 2012 council election results by ward

The Liberal Party’s vote ranged from 27% in Budgewoi and The Entrance wards, up to 37% in Gosford East. Labor’s vote ranged from 19.3% in Gosford East to 31% in Budgewoi.

The Greens managed to poll substantially better at a council level than in the 2013 federal election, polling over 10% in Gosford East and Gosford West, and over 9% in Budgewoi and Wyong.

The independent vote was extremely high, with over 45% of voters in The Entrance voting for Save Tuggerah Lakes or an independent ticket, and with over 30% of the vote in all five wards going outside of the three main parties.

Ward LIB % ALP % GRN % OTH %
Budgewoi 27.7 31.1 9.1 32.2
Gosford East 37.1 19.3 10.2 33.4
Gosford West 33.9 23.5 10.8 31.7
The Entrance 27.4 19.7 7.5 45.4
Wyong 29.6 22.5 9.3 38.6

Election results in Central Coast at the 2012 council election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for the Labor and Liberal parties.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.