Wollongong council election, 2017

The City of Wollongong covers the bulk of the Wollongong urban area, stretching along the coast from Lake Illawarra in the south to Helensburgh in the north. The council covers the Wollongong city centre and the suburbs of Stanwell Park, Coalcliff, Maddens Plains, Clifton, Scarborough, Wombarra, Coledale, Austinmer, Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona, Russell Vale, Bellambi, Corrimal, Fairy Meadow, Keiraville, Unanderra, Spring Hill, Berkeley, Warrawong, Port Kembla, Primbee, Windang, Dapto, Koonwarra, Penrose and Yallah.

Wards
The City of Wollongong is divided into three wards, with each ward electing four councillors.

Ward 1 covers the northernmost parts of Wollongong, including Fairy Meadow, Corrimal, Woonona, Thirroul, Austinmer, Bulli, Wombarra, Coalcliff, Stanwell Park, Otford and Helensburgh.

Ward 2 covers the Wollongong city centre and the neighbouring suburbs of Keiraville, Mount Kembla, Gwynneville, Farmborough Heights, North Wollongong and West Wollongong.

Ward 3 covers those suburbs surrounding Lake Illawarra, including Port Kembla, Warrawong, Berkeley, Kembla Grange, Primbee, Wandang, Kanahooka, Koonawarra, Brownsville, Dapto, Cleveland, Penrose and Yallah.

Incumbent mayor
Gordon Bradbery (Independent)

Incumbent councillors

Ward 1 Ward 2 Ward 3
Leigh Colacino (Liberal) Michelle Blicavs (Liberal) Chris Connor (Labor)
Janice Kershaw (Labor) David Brown (Labor) Bede Crasnich (Liberal)
Jill Merrin (Greens) John Dorahy (Liberal) Vicki Curran (Independent)
Greg Petty (Independent) George Takacs (Greens) Ann Martin (Labor)

History
The first municipal council covering Wollongong was created in 1859. A Central Illawarra council was created the same year, and then a North Illawarra council was founded in 1868. These councils were joined by Bulli Shire in 1906.

These four councils merged to form Greater Wollongong in 1946.

The longest-serving Lord Mayor of Wollongong was Frank Arkell, who held office from 1974 until 1991. Arkell served as the independent state MP representing Wollongong from 1984 until 1991.

Arkell was succeeded in 1991 by Labor candidate David Campbell. Campbell held the lord mayoralty for two terms, stepping down in 1999 after he won the state seat of Keira. Campbell went on to serve as a minister in the Labor government and retired from state parliament in 2011.

The mayoralty was won in 1999 by Labor’s George Harrison. Harrison served less than one term before he was forced to resign in 2002, in part due to his bankruptcy.

The 2002 by-election was won by independent candidate Alex Darling, who defeated Labor’s Bob Proudfoot.

Darling was re-elected in 2004. At the time, Wollongong used a system of six wards, with each ward electing two councillors. The voting rules of the time meant that the votes used to elect the first councillor could be re-used to elect the second, so most wards elected two members of the same team.

Labor won a clean sweep in three wards, while Dave Martin’s Active Community Team won in two wards. The final ward was split between a Labor councillor and another independent, Anne Wood. Despite Darling beating the Labor mayoral candidate, this gave Labor a majority on the council.

Wollongong City Council was sacked in early 2008 following significant reports of corruption and scandal at the council. The council was put in the hands of unelected administrators until 2011.

The next election for Wollongong (and neighbouring Shellharbour, which had also been sacked) were brought forward to 2011.

This election saw the mayoralty go to prominent local reverend Gordon Bradbery, who stood as an independent. Bradbery defeated Labor and Liberal official mayoral candidates. Bradbery did not run a ticket for the council election, so the major parties dominated that election. Labor and Liberal each won a seat in each ward, and both parties won a second seat in one of the three wards. This gave both major parties four seats on the council. The Greens won two seats, and the remaining two seats went to independents.

Candidate summary
Sitting Greens councillors Jill Merrin and George Takacs are not running for re-election. The Greens are running:

  • Ward 1 – Mithra Cox
  • Ward 2 – Cath Blakey
  • Ward 3 – Jamie Dixon

Labor councillor David Brown is running for lord mayor, and their lead candidates in each ward are:

  • Ward 1 – Janice Kershaw
  • Ward 2 – David Brown
  • Ward 3 – Victoria King

Sitting Labor councillors Chris Connor and Ann Martin have been placed second and third in Ward 3.

Assessment
It is not clear whether incumbent lord mayor Gordon Bradbery will run for re-election after six years in power.

If he runs, he will be the favourite to win re-election.

You would generally expect the Liberal Party to struggle to meet its 2011 result, which took place not long after the party had won the state election, and at a particularly weak moment for Labor. While Labor will likely improve their position, it’s hard to see them winning a majority on the council, or defeating Gordon Bradbery for the mayoralty.

2011 council result

Party Votes % % where contested
Liberal 31,287 31.0 31.0
Labor 30,568 30.3 30.3
Greens 9,908 9.8 14.2
Vicki Curran 4,932 4.9 15.8
Community Voice 4,117 4.1 4.1
Greg Petty 3,626 3.6 10.4
Andrew Anthony 3,482 3.4 10.0
Len Fares 3,311 3.3 9.5
Alice Cartan 2,227 2.2 6.4
Sara Howson 2,129 2.1 6.1
Others 5,354 5.3 5.3

2011 mayoral result – primary votes

Candidate Party Votes %
Gordon Bradbery Independent 37,383 35.0
John Dorahy Liberal 24,558 23.0
Chris Connor Labor 20,635 19.3
Jill Merrin Greens 6,109 5.7
Michael Organ Community Voice 4,336 4.1
Rod Oxley Independent 2,840 2.7
Vicki Curran Independent 2,562 2.4
Greg Petty Independent 2,270 2.1
Alice Cartan Independent 1,863 1.7
Andrew Anthony Independent 1,709 1.6
Shaun Prince Independent 1,629 1.5
Julius Kudrynski Independent 886 0.8

2011 mayoral result – after distribution of preferences

Candidate Party Votes %
Gordon Bradbery Independent 46,759 63.3
John Dorahy Liberal 27,167 36.7
Exhausted votes 32,854

Ward breakdown – 2011 council results
The Liberal Party narrowly outpolled Labor in the council vote at the 2011 council election.

The Liberal Party topped the poll easily in Ward 2, and narrowly in Ward 1. Labor polled over 40% in Ward 3. This pattern was reflected in the results, with the Liberal Party winning a second seat in Ward 2 and Labor winning a second seat in Ward 3. The major party vote was generally lower in Ward 1, where they barely polled 55% between them, and neither party managed more than one seat in that ward.

The Greens polled around 14% in each of the wards they contested, but did not contest Ward 3.

Ward LIB % ALP % GRN % OTH %
Ward 1 29.0 26.2 13.9 30.9
Ward 2 36.8 23.2 14.5 25.5
Ward 3 26.8 42.7 0.0 30.5

Election results at the 2011 Wollongong council election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for the Labor, Liberal and Greens parties.

Election results at the 2011 Wollongong mayoral election
Click on the ‘visible layers’ box to toggle between primary votes for leading candidates Gordon Bradbery (IND), Chris Connor (ALP) and John Dorahy (LIB).

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.