Local government Archive


Map update – ward maps for NSW and Victoria

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As we get close to the conclusion of the federal election, I’ve started work on some upcoming elections.

There will be council elections in New South Wales in September this year, and in Victoria in October. These elections will cover the whole of Victoria, and roughly half of all NSW councils. Those NSW councils up for election in 2016 are those unaffected by the council amalgamations. Those which have been amalgamated (or who escape amalgamation) are due to have elections in September next year.

I’ve now completed my ward map of Victoria.

I’ve also completed a local government area map of NSW showing the amalgamated councils and, where no decision has yet been taken, the proposed new council.

I’ve also completed a ward map of NSW for all of those councils with confirmed wards. This map includes wards for all of those councils which have elections in 2016, as well as wards for all of those new councils which have been formally created.

For those new councils already formally created, the NSW state government announced new ward boundaries at the same time as the amalgamations were announced. There is a series of councils where the state government has indicated in-principle support for amalgamation pending court challenges, or where no decision has yet been taken, so no wards have yet been announced for these councils.

The Hills Shire is a special case. It won’t be amalgamated, but has lost its southern edge to Parramatta, which means it will require new wards. Those wards have not yet been decided.

I will keep updating the local government area and ward maps of New South Wales as council amalgamations are finalised in the lead-up to the 2017 elections.

I will return with more analysis of these 2016 council elections as we get closer to election day.


NSW council amalgamations – the never-ending election

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.52.05 pmYesterday I posted a quick summary of the NSW government’s council amalgamation announcement.

Today I wanted to run through the partisan impact of the councils being created, and the impacts on the next NSW council elections.

In December, I assessed the proposed council amalgamations by calculating the federal two-party-preferred vote in each area.

There is a lot of variation in council elections – strong independents can mask the political bent of an area, and in some areas major parties don’t contest the election. While there is some personal vote effects in federal election results, I thought using the 2013 election would be useful in estimating the underlying political trend of each area. Basically I estimated the 2013 Coalition two-party-preferred vote in each council and then subtracted 3.5% from that figure to get a figure which would produce a statewide 50/50 result.

Some of the trends we saw in the draft proposals can be seen in the final decisions announced yesterday:

  • The new Parramatta is more Liberal-leaning than the old Parramatta, while neighbouring Cumberland is strongly Labor-leaning.
  • Pro-Labor Randwick has been absorbed into an overall Liberal-leaning eastern suburbs council.
  • Including Botany Bay in the eastern suburbs and Rockdale in Georges River would have made both councils more Labor-friendly. Instead a bizarre council has been created in the middle.
  • Greater Ryde (as I’ve called it – no name has been released as the decision is pending court action) is substantially more friendly to the Liberal Party than the old Ryde, which was more of a marginal council.

Kiama, which was expected to be absorbed by the larger and more conservative Shoalhaven council, has been spared.

I’ve updated the map to include the rest of the state – a series of new councils have been created in south-western and south-eastern NSW, and the three big towns in central west NSW, Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst, have been brought into bigger regional councils.

Now I want to address the major democratic deficit in yesterday’s announcement.

I’m not going to go over the whole question of whether council amalgamations are a good idea in this form, or whether bigger councils are better or worst, but instead address how the ward boundaries have been drawn, and the absurdly long period that so much of New South Wales will go without elected representatives.

It’s very unclear when elections will be held for most NSW councils. My best guess at the moment is that there will be three council election dates in 2016-17:

  • Councils unaffected by mergers (eg. Blacktown, Fairfield) – September 2016
  • Councils which were considered for amalgamation but were spared (eg. Hawkesbury, Kiama) – March 2017
  • New councils – September 2017

It’s also unclear how soon amalgamations will happen in the case of councils where the minister has given “in principle” support for amalgamations pending court action, or for those where no decision has been made (eg. Newcastle/Port Stephens). Will they be ready by September 2017, or will we have to wait longer?

It firstly seems ridiculous to scatter NSW council elections over such a long period.

More importantly, it’s an absurd amount of time to go without an elected council. I understand that you need some interregnum when replacing an outgoing council with a merged council, but fifteen months is ridiculous.

About 27% of the NSW population lives in one of the nineteen new councils created yesterday. Another 21% lives in the nine proposed councils which will be created once the current court action is resolved. If Newcastle is also merged and its council sacked, that will be a majority of the NSW population living in an area with no elected local representation.

Finally, it is appalling the way that the state government has gone about drawing the ward boundaries for those new councils with wards.

If this were a federal or state election, the process of drawing electoral boundaries is delegated to an independent commission. That commission takes submissions, takes comments on those submissions, makes a draft map, and then takes objections and comments on those objections. If their second map is significantly different to the first map, they can sometimes provide a third round of objections.

In Victoria and Queensland, a centralised authority uses a similar process to draw up boundaries, with rounds for objections and comments.

We don’t get that in NSW. A referendum or ministerial approval is needed to change the number of councillors, create wards, abolish wards or change the mayoral election method, but the council itself can draw its own wards. Having said that, such a process is still open, with draft boundaries being put out for consultation before being decided by the council.

We got none of that for these new councils. There was some discussion about how many councillors each council should have, and whether there should be wards. But there was no hint that the wards would be decided unilaterally without any consultation at the same times as the councils were being created. The elections have been delayed by a year, there’s plenty of time to do it properly.

Having said that, we now know the wards for a bunch of new councils across Sydney. Once the federal election is over, I’ll move over to preparing ward maps for the upcoming Victorian and NSW council elections (all of them). Until then, this is my last post about this issue, and I’ll soon resume posting about the federal election.


NSW council amalgamations round one

This is a quick post. I’ll come back later tonight with an updated map showing the new councils and their partisan breakdown, along similar lines to this post from December.

Some quick points about what has happened.

  • 19 new councils have been created, with the pre-existing councils in this area having been abolished as of today.
  • All nineteen new councils have had administrators appointed. Elections for these councils, along with other councils which have been considered for amalgamation, are delayed until September 2017. This leaves those amalgamated councils without elected representation for sixteen months.
  • The minister has also “agreed in principle” to nine other council amalgamations, but hasn’t acted on those proposals due to pending legal challenges.
  • Details about the new councils are available at this website.
  • No decision has been made about three council amalgamation proposals, including the two Hunter proposals. Interestingly, a new Armidale council has been formed out of two councils, while a broader proposal on creating a larger Armidale council out of four existing councils (including two abolished today) has not yet been resolved.
  • Most of today’s decisions aligned with the original proposals, except on the North Shore and Northern Beaches. Mosman has been included in a proposed new council with North Sydney and Willoughby, instead of joining a greater Manly council, while Manly, Warringah and Pittwater have been merged into a single Northern Beaches council. The original proposal would have seen Warringah split in half and the pieces given to Manly and Pittwater.
  • A bunch of amalgamation proposals have not proceeded, including:
    • Kiama and Shoalhaven
    • Hawkesbury and the Hills
    • Tamworth and Walcha
  • The number of councillors and wards for each new council has already been proclaimed.
  • Where wards will be created, those ward boundaries have already been released, and they can be downloaded from the new council’s page on the Stronger Councils website.
  • It appears that all of the urban councils have wards, and all of the rural councils have no wards.
  • All warded councils will have five wards of three councils, and a mayor elected by the councillors.
  • Despite the government expressing support for directly elected mayors in the past, a number of councils with directly elected mayors have been merged into councils without a directly elected mayor, including Canterbury, Manly, Hornsby and (if the minister goes through with further amalgamations) North Sydney and Willoughby.

That’s it for now. I’ll return later with a new map of the state, showing each council and its political bent.


Brisbane City Council – council results

This is the final of my three maps summarising key results from yesterday’s voting in Queensland. You can also check out my maps of the Brisbane lord mayoral results and the referendum results.

Overall, there was a swing to the ALP and away from the LNP, but it hasn’t been reflected in the ward victories.

The LNP primary vote dropped from 57.1% to 49.7%. Labor’s vote only increased from 32% to 33.8%, with the bulk of the swing going to the Greens, who increased their vote from 8.5% to 13.9%. This partly reflects that the Greens only ran in 18 wards in 2012, and ran in 26 in 2016.

On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor gained big swings in many LNP wards, but not in the ones that mattered.

The LNP has held on to all of their wards. Labor has lost its marginal ward of Northgate to the Liberal National Party, and Labor and the Greens are in a tight race for second place in the Gabba ward. Whichever progressive candidate comes second in the Gabba should easily defeat the LNP candidate on preferences.

Overall this leaves the LNP with 19 wards (up from 18), the ALP with five (down from seven), independent Nicole Johnston with her ward of Tennyson, and the Greens currently leading for their first Brisbane council seat.

(When the results are final and there is more time it would be worth examining whether there was an increase in preferences from Greens to Labor giving them those big 2PP swings, or whether it was just a drop in the LNP vote).

The following map can be clicked on to look at the primary votes and two-candidate-preferred figures for all 26 wards. We don’t have two-candidate-preferred vote figures in five wards. Understandably we won’t have a count in The Gabba until we know who is in the top two (although the ALP in winning about 59% in the ALP-LNP count). In Paddington, the ECQ originally conducted a count between the LNP and Labor, but the Greens overtook Labor.

For some reason in Tennyson, Pullenvale and Walter Taylor the ECQ included Labor in the notional count, even though they came third in those wards in 2012. It looks like Labor has again come third, so the ECQ will need to conduct a new count.


QLD election day open thread

Queenslanders are voting today in council elections, and on a referendum to change the constitution to have fixed four-year terms for the state Parliament.

I won’t be liveblogging results tonight as I’ll be out, but you can use this thread to discuss the results, and I might do occasional updates.

Antony Green will be covering the results at the ABC Elections website.

I’ll be doing post-election analysis, maybe late this evening or more likely tomorrow morning, so keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime, you can read through my guide to the Brisbane City Council election, which includes profiles of all 26 wards.


Queensland council election – ward map completed

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.55.00 pmIt’s only nine days now until Queenslanders vote for their councils for the next four years (along with a referendum on fixed four-year terms for the state parliament), and I’ve finally finished my Google Earth map of the ward boundaries.

Sixteen councils have changed their divisional or ward boundaries since the 2012 election. Four of these are councils which have changed their external boundaries due to the reversal of a pre-2012 council amalgamation: Cairns, Tablelands, Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton. The restored councils which took in parts of those four, respectively Douglas, Mareeba, Noosa and Livingstone, will all elect their councillors at large without any wards.

The other twelve councils to change their wards are Banana, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Ipswich, Isaac, Logan, Moreton Bay, Redland, Scenic Rim, Townsville and Whitsunday.

You can download the map here.

I’m now focusing all of my attention on preparing my guide to the 2016 federal election, with seat guides due to start appearing in April. I’ll likely return with a small amount of analysis of the results of the QLD election and referendum after March 19, but apart from that I’ll be keeping my head down working on the federal election.


Brisbane City Council guide finished

bcc2016-simpleVoters in Queensland will be voting on March 19 in local government elections, along with a referendum on fixed four-year terms for the state Parliament (which I’ve previously blogged about).

For the first time, I’ve put together a complete guide to the Brisbane City Council elections, similar to those I’ve done for state and federal elections.

The City of Brisbane is the biggest local government in Australia, with just over 1 million residents. The capital city councils in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide all cover a small inner-city section of the metropolitan area, but Brisbane covers a large expanse, more like big-city governments in places like London, New York or Auckland.

Read the guide.

Read the rest of this entry »


NSW council amalgamations – proposals released

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.09.31 pmThe NSW government has released its plans for council amalgamations following a lengthy of period of reviews and submissions by local councils.

The government is proposing cutting the number of councils in the Sydney region from 43 to 25, as well as merging other councils in rural NSW.

In this post I’m going to focus on the changes to the region stretching from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven, covering the vast bulk of New South Wales, including about 6 million residents.

This region includes 53 councils, and the NSW government proposes reducing this to 32 councils, with only 14 councils unaffected.

I’ve done some analysis of the political make-up of each new local government area, examining allegations of gerrymandering, and posting some maps showing the stats for each proposed new council.

You can download the Google Earth map of the proposed boundaries here. (link broken)

You can also download the dataset I used here.

My map does not cover rural areas – it only stretches from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven.

Read the rest of this entry »


NSW council amalgamations deadline looms

Yet another NSW government deadline looms today for local councils under the threat of amalgamation, and this time it looks likely to result in a number of significant amalgamations in Sydney and other large urban areas.

The Baird government has pursued a deliberate strategy to encourage councils to agree to amalgamations without using the full force of their legal power, through a combination of carrots (funding for councils agreeing to amalgamate) and sticks (the threat to immediately sack councils which they merge if they don’t cooperate). Up until the latest round of the process, most Sydney councils rejected amalgamation and insisted on standing alone.

With the release of the flawed Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) “Fit For the Future” report, which declared most Sydney councils to be ‘unfit’ due to their size despite giving them the tick on all financial criteria, the state government imposed today, 18 November, as another deadline for councils, with the clear threat of sacking for those councils which don’t consent to amalgamations.

It’s been very unclear as to how much power the state government has to implement amalgamations, short of passing legislation through a Legislative Council which at the moment is opposed to amalgamations. The government has some power to sack councils, and to refer changes to the boundaries commission, but whether they have the power to do this with councils which haven’t consented is unclear.

The Greens have argued that the state government doesn’t have this power, but they have also suggested it will be easier to do so if a council has given a stated preference for amalgamation, suggesting the question of the state government’s power is less clear – and clearly there are quite a few councils which don’t believe that the government doesn’t have the power to force through its agenda.

Councils have been asked to fill in a form indicating their preference for amalgamation, and they have only been given room to write 50 words explaining their decision. In numerous cases, councils have indicated that they agree to a particular amalgamation preference on the understanding that their preferred option remains to stand alone.

It’s hard to pull together information on which councils have made decisions, but here’s a summary of information I’ve found:

  • Randwick and Waverley have previously agreed to amalgamate. Woollahra remains opposed to amalgamation – while the remaining existence of a Woollahra council doesn’t cause immediate problems for a new Randwick-Waverley council, Woollahra would be an unusually small council compared to its neighbours, making it a likely target for a forced amalgamation.
  • Auburn, Burwood and Canada Bay councils have also previously agreed to amalgamate, but their amalgamation only really makes sense if Strathfield, which sits in the middle of the proposed council, is included. Strathfield is strongly opposed to any amalgamation.
  • The City of Sydney remains strongly opposed to any merger, although Marrickville has indicated a second preference to merge with Sydney.
  • Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt have previously been opposed but the three councils all passed similar motions that indicate a preference for the three councils to merge, and the three mayors have met with the minister. The merger appears one of the most likely to proceed.
  • Rockdale and Kogarah councils have indicated a preference for a merger of their two councils with Hurstville to create a St George regional council. Hurstville is open to merging with Kogarah but explicitly rejects a merger with Rockdale.
  • Canterbury sits between the potential St George, Ashfield/Marrickville/Leichhardt and Auburn/Burwood/Canada Bay mergers, but is not part of any of them. It could merge with Bankstown, but it would be an awkward shape for a council. I think it’s likely Canterbury will survive unscathed.
  • The Hills council continues to campaign for a hostile takeover of its neighbour Hawkesbury, and Hawkesbury continues to resist.
  • Warringah continues to be strongly supportive of a single Northern Beaches council, taking in its northern neighbour Pittwater and southern neighbour Manly. Both its neighbours prefer to stand alone, but they have both indicated a second preference to split Warringah between them to create Greater Pittwater and Greater Manly. The planning minister, Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, has advocated for the abolish-Warringah option.
  • Holroyd remains strongly opposed to any merger, which would presumably be with Parramatta. It’s unclear where Parramatta stands on such a change.
  • There’s a series of small councils on the lower north shore, stretching from Hunters Hill to Mosman. As far as I can tell, none of them have expressed an amalgamation preference, with North Sydney gearing up for a fight.
  • The two Central Coast councils of Gosford and Wyong, which already cover quite large areas and quite large populations, have agreed to merge. This isn’t a backup option if standing alone is rejected – it’s their first preference.
  • It was previously assumed that Newcastle and Lake Macquarie were being pushed together to form a Greater Newcastle council which would take a majority of its population from Lake Macquarie, but neither council prefers that option. Lake Macquarie expressed a preference for merging with Wyong, but Wyong has indicated a preference for merging with Gosford, leaving Lake Macquarie on its own.
  • Last night, Newcastle Council voted against voluntarily amalgamating, but expressed a backup preference for a merger with Port Stephens.

This is basically Lake Macquarie’s position:

Feel free to use this comment thread to discuss what comes after today’s deadline.


IPART declares NSW councils “unfit”, set for merger fight

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has today released its report into the “Fit for the Future” process, which has been the program whereby the NSW Government has been pushing for wide-scale council amalgamations across New South Wales. Despite the rhetoric, the report tells us nothing about the sustainability of local government, while giving us an insight into the state government’s amalgamation agenda. Despite the sheen of objectivity, IPART’s assessment works on the basis that local councils must be bigger, and for those councils which fail to meet the size criteria set by the government, their financial position is largely irrelevant.

The NSW government set a variety of criteria which it expected councils to meet. One of these criteria was the vague concept of “scale and capacity”, which seemed to be code for “bigger”. Today IPART, following the very much non-independent criteria set by the state government, has declared a majority of the state’s councils as “unfit” – most of those declared unfit were because they failed to meet the arbitrary “scale and capacity” criteria, which appears to have been applied to different councils of similar sizes.

The NSW government has used rhetoric that implies that there is no alternative but to merge for these councils, and that they need to do so to be sustainable. Yet most councils declared “unfit” cleared the financial criteria set down, and instead were declared “unfit” because of a big-council political agenda being pursued by the government. It is laughable to call this process “independent” when you consider how the criteria have been framed. Read the rest of this entry »