Lake Macquarie council election, 2021

The City of Lake Macquarie covers southern parts of the Hunter region on three sides of Lake Macquarie, including Catherine Hill Bay, Swansea, Belmont, Kahibah, Warners Bay, Charlestown, Cardiff, Speers Point, West Wallsend, Morisset and Toronto.

Lake Macquarie has a population of approximately 206,000 people (as of 2019).

Wards
Lake Macquarie is divided up into three wards, with each ward electing four councillors. The council also includes a directly-elected mayor.

East ward covers the land mass between Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Catherine Hill Bay in the south to Mount Hutton, Gateshead, Eleebana and Redhead in the north. This ward also covers Belmont, Valentine and Swansea.

North ward covers those areas closest to Newcastle, stretching from Dudley and Kahibah near the ocean to West Wallsend in the northwestern corner of the council. This ward covers the entire council boundary with the City of Newcastle, and only touches the shore of Lake Macquarie in one small area at Warners Bay. The ward also covers Charlestown, Hillsborough, Cardiff, Glendale and Edgeworth.

West ward covers a majority of the council’s landmass, including those areas on the western shore of Lake Macquarie and further inland. Major centres include Morisset, Toronto, Rathmines and Bonnells Bay.

Incumbent mayor
Kay Fraser (Labor)

Incumbent councillors

EastNorthWest
Christine Buckley (Labor) Brian Adamthwaite (Labor) David Belcher (Labor)
John Gilbert (Lake Mac Ind) Kevin Baker (Liberal) Luke Cubis (Lake Mac Ind)
Nick Jones (Liberal) Colin Grigg (Lake Mac Ind) Wendy Harrison (ILA)
Adam Shultz (Labor) Barney Langford (Labor) Jason Pauling (Liberal)

History
Lake Macquarie has long been dominated by Labor politicians at a state and federal level, but the local council had been home to a strong independent alliance which ruled the council for two terms, but has since dwindled down to just one seat.

This group goes by the name “Independent Lake Alliance”, and in 2004 their mayoral candidate Greg Piper was successful in winning the mayoralty, after serving 13 years as an independent councillor. Piper’s alliance won five out of twelve council seats, with Labor winning five, the Liberal Party one, and the final seat won by independent Rob O’Brien. This gave Piper’s team six out of thirteen seats, one short of a majority.

Piper went on to win the state seat of Lake Macquarie at the 2007 election, defeating longstanding Labor MP Jeff Hunter.

Piper was re-elected as mayor in 2008, at the head of a much more diverse council. Labor’s council ranks dropped from five to three. The Liberal Party won a second seat, and the Greens won two. Piper’s team won four seats on the council in addition to his own, and the final seat was won by independent Barry Johnston, a sitting Labor councillor who had lost his preselection.

Piper was re-elected to his state seat in 2011, and in 2012 he did not run for a third term as mayor.

The mayoralty was contested by north ward councillor Jodie Harrison from Labor, and west ward councillor Wendy Harrison from the Independent Lake Alliance. Labor’s Harrison defeated the independent Harrison with 52.2% of the vote after preferences.

Labor strengthened its position on Lake Macquarie council in 2012, winning five council seats in addition to Jodie Harrison’s seat as mayor. The Independent Lake Alliance dropped to four seats, including Barry Johnston who joined their team. The Liberal Party increased their representation to three seats, while the Greens did not win any seats.

In 2014, Labor mayor Jodie Harrison was elected to state parliament in the Charlestown by-election, and she was re-elected at the 2015 state election.

The 2016 election was a status quo result for Labor and Liberal. Labor retained their five council seats along with the mayoralty, while the Liberal Party retained their three seats.

The Independent Lake Alliance, however, was decimated. This group did not register its name as a party, and instead contested the election as independent tickets in each ward. They were challenged by a conservative local party (which had registered it’s name) called “Lake Mac Independents” (LMI). The LMI polled 16.8% and won a seat in each ward. The ILA’s vote dropped to 18.5%, and only won a single seat, with the party’s former mayoral candidate Wendy Harrison re-elected in the West Ward.

The mayoral election was much more decisive than in 2012, with an 11.8% primary vote swing to Labor’s mayoral candidate Kay Fraser. The Labor primary vote reached 44.7%.

Candidate summary
The Greens have announced lead candidates in all three wards:

Assessment
Labor is in a strong position in Lake Macquarie and only needs to win one more seat for an absolute majority. The best prospect would be in the West ward, where they polled 36% of the council vote and 39.5% of the mayoral vote in 2016.

The Independent Lake Alliance will be in a weak position in 2021 and are in real danger of being wiped out. Wendy Harrison’s seat is probably the easiest prospect for Labor to win a majority.

The conservatives currently hold six seats, and that seems quite high for this region. The LMI would have likely attracted a lot of votes from voters who were not aware of their right-wing positioning in 2016. Even if that party holds together (which is far from guaranteed) it would be quite the achievement to hold their three seats.

If the ILA vote drops, the direction of that vote could make a difference between giving Labor a solid majority or boosting the Liberal minority. The electoral system means that a party needs just 40% to win two seats in a ward but needs a whopping 60% in a ward to win three seats. That is a high barrier to climb, but if the ILA vote mostly goes to Labor it could well be achieved in some wards.

2016 council election result

PartyVotes%SwingSeats won
Labor 48,03142.30+8.95
Liberal 25,40422.37-3.73
Independent Lake Alliance20,97818.48-5.31
Lake Mac Independents19,03616.77+16.83
Other independents900.08-7.7
Informal8,2736.79

2016 mayoral election result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Kay Fraser Labor 51,39844.68+11.8
Laurie CoghlanIndependent Lake Alliance23,71620.62-4.9
Jason Pauling Liberal 23,60520.52-1.9
John GilbertLake Mac Independents7,1446.21+6.2
Luke CubisLake Mac Independents5,3884.68+4.7
Colin GriggLake Mac Independents3,7743.28+3.3
Informal6,7795.57

2016 mayoral election result – after distribution of preferences

CandidatePartyVotes%
Kay Fraser Labor 52,51450.29
Laurie CoghlanIndependent Lake Alliance26,34925.23
Jason Pauling Liberal 25,55524.47
Exhausted10,604

Vote breakdown by ward
The following tables show the vote in each ward at the 2016 election, for council and for mayor.

Labor topped the primary vote for both council and mayor in all three wards. Their council vote varied from 35.9% in the west to 47.6% in the north. The vote for Labor mayoral candidate Kay Fraser varied from 39.5% in the west to 48.2% in the north.

The Liberal Party came second on the council vote, with a primary vote varying from 20.6% in the north to 23.7% in the west. The mayoral vote was slightly lower, varying from 19.6% in the noth to 21.7% in the west.

The Independent Lake Alliance came third on the council, with a primary vote varying from 14.9% in the north to 24.2% in the west. The ILA candidate Laurie Coghlan did much better on the mayoral ballot, particularly in the two weaker wards, with a vote varying from 18.6% in the north to 23% in the west.

The Lake Mac Independents team’s council primary vote varied from 16% in the west to 17.5% in the east, outpolling the ILA in two wards. They ran three mayoral candidates, and between the three of them their vote ranged from 13.2% in the east to 15.7% in the west.

Council results by ward

WardALP %LIB %ILA %LMI %
East43.822.716.117.5
North47.620.614.916.8
West35.923.724.216.0

Mayoral results by ward

WardALP %ILA %LIB %LMI %
East46.520.120.213.2
North48.218.619.613.6
West39.523.021.715.7

Election results at the 2016 City of Lake Macquarie election
Toggle between primary votes for Labor, Liberal, Independent Lake Alliance and Lake Mac Independents.

Election results at the 2016 City of Lake Macquarie mayoral election
Toggle between primary votes for Kay Fraser, Laurie Coghlan, Jason Pauling and the three LMI candidates.

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