Local government Archive


WA council elections – new ward map posted

Western Australia is currently undergoing regular council elections. It’s taken a while to pull together, but I’ve now completed an updated ward map for these elections.

You can download the 2013 and 2015 ward maps from the maps page. It’s quite a difficult task as there’s no central repository of information on wards, or how they’ve changed. If you notice any errors, please let me know.

Most WA councils conduct their elections via postal voting, apart from a few small rural councils which run their own elections. The election day is in less than two weeks, on October 17, although in practice most postal votes will be cast well in advance.


Redistribution updates – ACT and Brisbane

While I’ve been focusing on other projects, two of the ongoing redistributions have been finalised.

I covered the release of draft boundaries for redistributions for the ACT Legislative Assembly and the Brisbane City Council. In both cases, the final boundaries have now been released.

The ACT boundaries were first published as a draft at the end of March 2015, and were finalised in May. No changes were made between the draft boundaries and the final boundaries. You can read my analysis of the boundaries here.

The Brisbane City Council draft boundaries were released in July, with the final boundaries release in late August. There were a series of small changes to wards, while a majority of wards underwent no changes. The newly-renamed ward of Garden City reverted to its former name of Macgregor in the final version. Read my analysis of the draft boundaries here. I haven’t made any changes to my estimates of margins on the draft boundaries, as no polling places were moved on the final version.

You can download the maps from the maps page.

Brisbane ward boundaries are included in the Queensland wards map, which is currently incomplete as a number of other councils are still undergoing changes.

In other redistribution news, we’re expecting the draft boundaries for federal redistributions in NSW and the ACT to be released this month, and then we’ll be looking to see the final versions of the NT Legislative Assembly redistribution, the WA state redistribution and the WA federal redistribution.

I’m currently collecting information on WA ward changes, and in October and November will post updates of Victorian and Queensland wards in time for their 2016 elections.


Map update – WA ward maps

Western Australia will be holding council elections on 17 October 2015 – over the course of the subsequent year, there will be local government elections across Australia’s four largest states.

Since the 2008 elections, I’ve produced ward maps for councils in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, but until now I’ve never done maps for Western Australia.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been working on a map of Western Australia’s local council wards, as of the last council election in 2013.

You can download the map here.

I’m now working on updated ward maps for Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. Conveniently, the electoral commissions provide a neat summary of which councils are changing their wards, along with the timelines and all relevant information. I’m not so lucky in the case of New South Wales and Western Australia.

In both cases, I am going to assume that councils without wards are undergoing no changes, and then go through the painstaking process of identifying which warded councils require changes, and identifying the new boundaries for those councils which are undergoing changes. If you have information about a warded council in NSW or WA, I’d appreciate it if you posted the information as a comment.

In the meantime, you’ll likely hear from me next when the next round of draft boundaries from the various federal, state and territory redistributions are released.


Brisbane – draft ward boundaries released

BCCredistThe Electoral Commission of Queensland on Friday released its draft boundaries for the 26 wards covering the City of Brisbane – Australia’s biggest local council.

The process is similar to processes followed for state, territory and federal electoral redistributions, a number of which are currently taking place. In December, I posted about the prospects for the redistribution.

Despite the twelve northern wards being substantially larger than the fourteen wards south of the Brisbane river, the ECQ has chosen to not draw a ward crossing the river, thus leaving the north with twelve wards, all slightly larger than the fourteen on the south side.

In this blog post, I will describe what changes have taken place, and what they mean for the electoral landscape of Brisbane. I’ve also included an interactive map of the new boundaries.

You can now download the draft boundary map here. In the next few months I will also prepare updated maps for all the other councils in Queensland undergoing ward redistributions, as well as those in three other states.

Read the rest of this entry »


Local government mergers – in WA and New Zealand

While New South Wales is currently undergoing a process of considering metropolitan council amalgamations, Western Australia has recently reached the unsuccessful conclusion of a similar process – which ended with a number of overwhelming ‘no’ votes in local referendums and an abandonment of the process in February 2015. New Zealand, which already has much larger councils than in most of Australia, is also currently considering a number of council mergers.

Read the rest of this entry »


NSW government pushing for council mergers

Local councils across Sydney are currently going through a process of making submissions to the state government’s ‘Fit For The Future’ program, which is aimed at judging councils on a bunch of criteria, seemingly with the goal of consolidating the number of local councils, producing a smaller number of more populous councils.

In practice, the criteria are largely arbitrary, based on some vague concept of “big is better”, and attitudes of local councils towards amalgamation seem based on base politics, with various councils effectively promoting hostile takeovers of their neighbours in ways that will help their political party solidify its hold.

Through the course of this month, each council in the Sydney region is making a submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) about how their council meets the criteria set by the NSW government as to whether they are ‘fit for the future’. This process has involved many councils undertaking consultation, and coming to decisions about their recommendations, which have focused on whether councils support amalgamating with their neighbours.

The criteria cover the capability of the council, along with its efficiency, financial sustainability and management of infrastructure. The other criteria, ‘scale’, seems to be particularly arbitrary – the government has set a presumption that councils should have a substantially larger population than they have now, which necessitates significant amalgamations regardless of how a council performs on the other criteria. No number has been set for this criteria, with various figures suggesting different figures throughout the process.

While the process is requiring councils to produce public submissions, there is no such requirement for the state government to be transparent in their decisions – the IPART decisions will remain secret, and we won’t know whether any decisions by the state government to recommend amalgamations was made based on an IPART recommendation, or despite IPART’s recommendations.

There are undoubtedly some parts of Sydney which could do with local council amalgamations (hello, Burwood and Hunters Hill), but it is very unclear how much Sydney councils would be improved through amalgamations. While there may be some efficiencies, these in part could come from reductions in duplicated services, which may not be appreciated by their residents, and there will be a substantial cost to amalgamate different councils. Different councils provide different levels of service, and it remains unclear whether amalgamated councils would raise all parts of the council area to the highest standard, or lower services to the minimum.

Many councils are already benefiting from efficiencies created by cooperation between councils, sharing procurement and other parts of a council’s work, through the existence of regional organisations.

Looking at the list of councils who have expressed an openness to amalgamation, it has little to do with which councils are in most need of amalgamation, but more to do with politics – larger councils attempting to take over their smaller neighbours, and councils finding ways to design new boundaries that benefit the politically-dominant faction. In some cases, councils which are not considered to be in any need of merger have launched attempts to take over their neighbours.

In most of these cases, these councils are run by Liberals or Liberal-aligned independents.

Warringah Council, which is already well above the average population, has launched a bid to merge with its neighbours in Manly and Pittwater, neither of which support amalgamation.

In the north-west, The Hills, another large conservative council, is seeking to take over Hawkesbury Shire, which has about one third of the population but covers a large swathe of north-western Sydney. Hawkesbury, despite its small population, was not targeted for amalgamation because it covers such a large area. Hornsby Shire has also proposed a merger with Ku-ring-gai, who have refused the overtures.

In the inner west, most councils have opposed amalgamation, but in some cases councils have adopted ‘back-up options’. Leichhardt Council has proposed an amalgamation with Canada Bay and Ashfield councils, which would produce a strange Y-shaped area, but would conveniently weaken the Greens, who topped the poll in Leichhardt in 2012.

Further out in the inner west, Auburn and Burwood councils both agreed to a merger with Canada Bay council, but Canada Bay rejected the proposal. The three-council merger proposal was already strange, as it would leave Strathfield council alone (one of the smallest with a population of 37,000) surrounded by a new council on three sides which would include a population of over 190,000. It’s even more ridiculous without Canada Bay, because Burwood and Auburn do not share a boundary. Auburn intends to still push for the merger despite Canada Bay’s objections.

While Auburn is eager to merge with councils to its east, it has been resistant to joining an enlarged City of Parramatta with Holroyd (which is also anti-amalgamation) and Parramatta, which is generally supportive. One wonders whether this is linked to the political make-up of the councils, and where the centre of gravity would lie in an Auburn-Burwood-Canada Bay council compared to a City of Greater Parramatta.

The most ridiculous case comes in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. The original proposal from the independent panel was to merge the councils of Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra into the City of Sydney, so that Sydney would cover the entire eastern peninsula. The other four councils all oppose this option, but their tactics to prevent it have varied.

Waverley and Randwick councils, which both have substantial numbers of Labor and Greens councillors but are currently dominated by conservatives, have both supported mergers with Woollahra and Botany Bay councils respectively, and possibly as a merger of all four councils. In Randwick, the Greens have come on board with the Liberal plans to launch a hostile takeover of Botany Bay council, which is dominated by Labor and strongly opposed to a merger.

Woollahra council, which is also dominated by the Liberal Party, also rejects amalgamation – unlike its neighbours to the south, the Liberal Party has a solid hold on Woollahra which is unlikely to change. It seems like those ‘marginal Liberal’ councils may see amalgamation as a way to solidify their hold on the east.

Of course, we have no idea how seriously these local council positions will be taken. Apart from Randwick and Waverley, no two other neighbouring councils support merging with each other. So any mergers will require the overriding of councils, at which point it seems far more rational to draw new boundaries where the government sees the most need, rather than drawing them according to the short-term political interests of sitting councillors.

We also don’t know what other reforms could come along – the independent review panel also recommended direct election of mayors, and possibly other structural reforms. I would personally like to see larger councils (including those large councils that already exist) given a larger number of councils than the current limit of 15 – but the trend seems to be in the other direction, treating councils as ‘boards of directors’ which are easier to manage with less representation.

While local government in New South Wales isn’t perfect, triggering a frenzy of amalgamation pushes across Sydney won’t do much to improve it – so much of the problems local councils have relate to the costs that have been imposed on them by other levels of government, and the ways in which they are restricted in finding funds to cover their work. Consolidating local councils into larger units won’t do much at all to fix that fundamental problem, but that’s a story for another day.

The deadline for local council submissions is next Tuesday, 30 June, so we may well see solid proposals for council amalgamations, likely forced, later this year, in time for council elections in 2016.


Why can’t Greater Sydney be run as a democracy?

There was a story yesterday about plans by the NSW government to form a “Greater Sydney Commission”, which would take charge of planning for development across Sydney, and seemingly also have some kind of responsibility for infrastructure and transport.

Apparently the Commission was announced in 2014, although I missed it at the time. It appears to be linked to the government’s ongoing plans for local government reform (which I will cover later this week), with the Commission effectively including both council and state government representatives and would take control of setting housing targets and a variety of other Sydney-wide planning concerns.

The Sun-Herald described the Commission as ‘London-style’, but there’s a critical difference. In London, where there is a city-wide Greater London Authority alongside local borough councils, the Authority is a democratic organisation, run by a directly-elected Mayor and a 25-member Assembly, elected using proportional representation.

Instead, the proposed Commission would appear to have twelve members. The senior public servants covering roads, transport and planning for the NSW government would be represented, alongside three “independent members” (who knows what that means – just NSW government appointments?) as well as six representatives of local councils. It appears that six regional organisation of councils will each have a representative on the Commission.

So this body that would be taking over responsibilities from the democratically-elected state government, and from democratic local governments, would always be at least two steps removed from the will of the voters – voters elect councillors, who elect regional representatives, who elect Commissioners, while state government representatives are public servants appointed by the relevant ministers.

I can see a lot of value in a body that would look at planning issues for the whole of Sydney, in a way that is hard for either the state government or small local governments. But there’s no reason this can’t be democratically run.

There are two places in Australia where a democratically-elected government effectively covers an entire city, but no more – the City of Brisbane, which covers a large part of the Brisbane urban area, and the Australian Capital Territory, in which nearly all of the population lives in Canberra. In both cases we have ‘big city government’ that prioritises the city as a whole, rather than small parts of the city, or a bigger area of which the city is one part.

There’s a tendency amongst those pushing for local government reforms to push for any mechanism which takes the decision a step away from the voters: creating panels of mayors (thus excluding the vast majority of local representatives), or creating apolitical commissions. It’s almost like democracy is a necessary evil, and where possible it should be pushed into the corner.

There are real political issues to be debated across Sydney – which areas should receive the brunt of the new housing needed for current and future population growth, and how much investment should go into public transport or roads. But they should be debated in democratic forums.

I don’t see a good reason why such a body couldn’t be democratically elected. It could be elected at the same time as the next local government elections in September 2016. You could elect it using the same voting system, with a number of large ‘wards’ or electorates covering a number of local government areas.

Sure, such an elected Greater Sydney Assembly would be likely dominated by members of the political parties, but that’s democracy, and such an election would have different dynamics to state and council elections, and would focus attention on the needs of Sydney as a city, in a way that doesn’t happen in NSW state elections.

It appears this Commission will have a lot of power over planning Sydney’s future – and that power should go to a body that represents the people of Sydney. If things work out well, such a body could then go on to take on other responsibilities currently sitting with state or local government.


Brisbane City – redrawing the wards

briswardsThe City of Brisbane is unlike any other council in Australia. With a population of over one million people, the council is much larger than metropolitan councils in other Australian cities.

The election for Lord Mayor of Brisbane is the largest single-member election in Australia, with over 550,000 people voting in the 2012 election. This is much more than in a federal electorate. The council consists of 26 councillors, each elected from their own ward. Those 26 wards are also quite large – almost as large as Queensland state seats.

Considering all this, elections for the City of Brisbane are more like a small state election than any other local council election around Australia. With this in mind, I’m planning to cover the March 2016 Brisbane election in the same way I have done for recent state elections, with a guide for each ward.

In the meantime, the Electoral Commission of Queensland is currently undertaking a redistribution of Brisbane’s wards for the 2016 and 2020 elections. The last redistribution took place before the 2008 election, and the current wards have been used for two elections.

In this post, I’m looking at what changes may need to be made to the existing ward boundaries.

At the last redistribution before the 2008 election, the ward of Grange was abolished in the north of Brisbane, and was effectively replaced by a southern ward. In exchange, the seat of Walter Taylor lost the one third of its territory on the southern side of the river. This effectively cut the number of wards north of the river from 12.7 to 12. It seems likely that some of these trends will be reversed in this redistribution.

The ECQ has released enrolment figures for each ward as of 2014, as well as projects for 2016 and 2018. All wards must be within 10% of the quota in 2014, and it’s a good idea to also try and draw boundaries that keep wards within that quota by 2018.

For my analysis I have split Brisbane into four quarters. There are twelve wards north of the river and fourteen south of the river. For the wards south of the river, I have split them into two quarters of seven wards each. The south-east covers The Gabba ward in South Brisbane and all those wards to the east of the M3, while the south-west covers the remaining wards south of the river.

The north-west covers Central ward (covering the Brisbane CBD) and wards further west covering areas like Indooroopilly, Ashgrove and Moggill. The north-east covers areas to the north and east of the CBD.

Region Enrolment Wards 2014 variation 2016 variation 2018 variation
North-East 167,584 6 20.37 24.53 28.23
North-West 162,855 6 2.86 6.11 3.07
South-East 188,911 7 -0.68 -3.67 0.53
South-West 183,002 7 -22.55 -26.97 -31.83

Overall, the north-west and south-east are close to quota. There are some seats over quota – Central is 10.2% over quota already, and The Gabba is expected to be more than 10% over quota by 2018 – but theoretically these issues could be resolved by minor changes between neighbouring wards rather than major structural changes to the whole city.

However the north-east is well over quota and the south-west is well under quota. By 2018, the north-east will have enough extra voters for 28% of an extra ward. By 2018, the south-west’s population will fall 31.8% short of justifying a seventh ward.

In order to resolve these differences, wards will need to shift north from the south-west to the north-east. Since these two regions don’t border each other, it will require significant changes to some wards in one of the regions where the population is on quota.

In particular, it will be necessary for one of the wards to cross the river. At the moment, there is no ward crossing the river. In the past, the Walter Taylor ward (covering the Indooroopilly area) has included areas on the south side of Brisbane, and the Indooroopilly state seat is currently the only Brisbane seat to cross the river. Because of this, it seems likely that a ward will cross the river in this area.

So the most likely trend seems to be:

  • Seats in the south-east undergo minor changes, with the Gabba shrinking and giving territory to Holland Park, and Holland Park and three of its neighbours all expanding slightly to absorb the growth from the Gabba. The surplus from Doboy will bring Wynnum-Manly up to quota relatively simply.
  • In the south-west, Parkinson will shrink, but all of its neighbours will have to grow, in particular Jamboree and Macgregor. This will require one of these wards, probably Tennyson, to jump the river and take in about 8000 voters.
  • The wards of Walter Taylor, The Gap and Toowong all will require substantial more population, which will probably result in significant redrawing of their borders and a general shift to the north-east. This will include taking in substantial parts of Central ward, which is well over quota.
  • Bracken Ridge will likely give some of its territory to Deagon to bring them both into quota, and McDowall will take population from Marchant to bring them into quota. No changes are necessary to Northgate.
  • Hamilton is due to be way over quota, and with Northgate not needing changes, most of this population growth will need to be discharged into Central ward. With Central giving up some of its territory to Toowong, this will result in Central shifting towards the north-east.

You can find out more about the redistribution at the ECQ website, and submissions close on December 22.


Newcastle lord mayoral – maps and tables

Newcastlemayoralresults1-ALPA large swing of 14% to Labor has delivered the party the Lord Mayoralty for the first time in 15 years. Labor lost the lord mayoralty to independent John Tate in 1999. Tate was re-elected in 2004 and 2008, and replaced by Jeff McCloy in 2012.

On current numbers, Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes is sitting on 42.5% of the primary vote, followed by Brad Luke on 23.6%. Luke is the acting lord mayor, and was a Liberal Party member until recently, when he decided to run as an independent for Lord Mayor. The Greens’ Therese Doyle is coming third on 14%, followed by conservative independent Aaron Buman, a former councillor who ran for lord mayor in 2008 and 2012.

For the purposes of analysis, I have broken up votes between the four wards of Newcastle City Council, with special votes such as prepoll and postal votes grouped as ‘other votes’. It’s worth comparing the following table to the pre-election table.

Voter group ALP % Luke % GRN % Buman % ALP swing Total votes % of votes
Fourth 48.11 18.86 9.22 14.85 17.68 19625 23.94
Second 36.34 31.04 15.29 8.61 12.86 17318 21.12
Third 43.82 22.70 14.06 10.93 13.93 16619 20.27
First 42.82 19.12 19.78 10.06 12.94 16040 19.57
Other votes 39.78 27.45 12.10 12.61 11.63 12377 15.10

Labor topped the poll in all four areas, but did substantially better in the fourth ward and substantially worse in the second ward. The second ward was the best area for Luke.

For the Greens, their vote was highest in the first ward, and worst in the fourth ward. The party gained swings of between 3% and 3.6% in three wards, but actually suffered a tiny negative swing in the fourth ward.

Aaron Buman gained a 4% swing compared to his 2012 result, but still came fourth, and only managed to outpoll the Greens in the fourth ward.

Below the fold, I have included booth maps showing the primary vote for the four leading candidates, and the Labor swing compared to 2012. Please note these maps exclude two booths at the edge of the City of Newcastle: Beresfield and Minmi. Read the rest of this entry »


Newcastle mayoral by-election live

City of Newcastle lord mayoral by-election results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected %
Aaron Buman Independent 8,852 11.29 +3.97 11.33
David Chapman Independent 3,910 4.99 +4.99 4.99
Rod Holding Independent 1,438 1.83 +1.83 1.83
Brad Luke Independent 18,669 23.82 -19.3 23.45
Nuatali Nelmes Labor 33,107 42.24 +13.86 42.42
Joe Ferguson Australia First 1,236 1.58 +1.58 1.58
Therese Doyle Greens 11,166 14.25 +2.46 14.25

9:57pm – I’ve just added prepoll figures to the count.

9:50pm – Final post for tonight – I’ve broken down the figures by each ward of Newcastle council. Labor’s vote ranged from 36.3% in the second ward to 48.1% in the fourth ward. The Labor swing was clustered around 12-13% in three out of four wards, but was 17.7% in the fourth ward. The vote for conservative candidate Brad Luke ranged from 19% in the first and fourth wards, up to 31% in the second ward. The Greens vote ranged from 9% in the fourth ward to 19.8% in the first ward. The Greens vote increased by 3-4% in three out of four wards, but actually suffered a -0.1% swing in the fourth ward.

9:39pm – We now have results from all 47 ordinary vote polling places, and the result is reasonably clear, and similar to the figures from earlier tonight.

8:48pm – We now have almost two thirds of booths reporting, and we are still looking at Labor in the low 40s, Brad Luke second with just over 20%, and the Greens’ Therese Doyle around 14%.

8:22pm – Newcastle results still trickling in, with 19 booths now reporting, but no significant change in the picture.

8:00pm – In the Second Ward, which covers Wentworth Falls and other mid-mountains towns, the Greens councillor resigned from council most recently. At the moment the Greens vote is down from 22.7% to 17.7%, and the Labor vote is down from 36.9% to 27.3%. The Liberal Party polled 40.4% in 2012, but is not running this time. At the moment Labor is leading, followed by two independents on 23% and 20.2% each.

7:56pm – A quick detour to look at the Blue Mountains. In the First Ward (Katoomba, Leura and areas further up the mountains), Labor, Liberal and independent Robert Stock all won a seat in 2012. Stock resigned earlier this year. The Liberal vote has dropped 5.1% from 26.5% to 21.4%. The Labor vote has increased from 23% to 29.8%, and the Greens vote has increased from 22.1% to 28.9%. At the moment, it looks like either Labor or the Greens will gain a seat, depending on preferences from the Liberal Party and two independents. I should note that I haven’t built a booth-matching model, so I am comparing the result so far off 9/10 booths and no special votes to the total vote from 2012.

7:55pm – With about 1/3 of ordinary votes reporting, Labor is still on track for 43% of the primary vote in Newcastle.

7:44pm – We now have twelve booths reporting in Newcastle, and the picture is largely the same – Labor with a huge primary vote lead, followed by a conservative independent and the Greens.

7:32pm – We now have seven booths reporting, and Labor is still on track to lead by a long way on primary votes, and should be able to win with Greens preferences. The Greens on raw numbers are down 1%, but when you match booths this flips to a +2.93% swing.

7:22pm – I should also note that in Newcastle I am comparing Brad Luke’s vote to the vote for Jeff McCloy in 2012, as the leading conservative independent, which explains the 20% swing against Luke.

7:17pm – We have the first two booths reporting from Newcastle, and Labor is projected to end up on about 45.6% of the primary vote – which should be easily enough to win with Greens preferences. In Marrickville West Ward, the Labor vote and Greens vote are both up, with the Liberal vote down, so Labor should retain the seat.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in Newcastle’s lord mayoral by-election, as well as in three other council by-elections in Marrickville and the Blue Mountains. I’ll mostly be covering the results from the City of Newcastle this evening. The lord mayoralty of Newcastle was held by Jeff McCloy from the 2012 council election until he resigned earlier this year after he was exposed as giving donations to a number of Liberal candidates despite being a property developer, prior to winning the mayoralty.

You can also check out the Tally Room guide to this by-election, which includes analysis of the 2012 election result and the history of Newcastle’s lord mayoralty.

McCloy won the lord mayoralty in 2012 with 43% of the primary vote, with Labor coming second with 28%. The main candidates are considered to be Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes, and independent candidate Brad Luke, who was elected to Newcastle City Council in 2012 as a Liberal councillor.

Results will be coming in tonight from 47 polling places, and I will be attempting to match results to 2012 booth results to produce a predicted final result. However we will not be experiencing a two-candidate-preferred count tonight, so the projections will only produce estimates of the final primary vote.