Shoalhaven council election, 2021

The City of Shoalhaven covers parts of the south coast from Shoalhaven Heads to Durras North. Towns in the council include Nowra, Berry, Ulladulla, Milton, Sussex Inlet and Huskisson.

The council has a population of about 106,000 people as of 2019.

Wards
Shoalhaven is divided into three wards, with each ward electing four councillors. The council also directly elects a mayor, adding up to a total of thirteen councillors.

Ward 1 covers the northern end of the council, including Kangaroo Valley, Berry, Shoalhaven Heads, Bomaderry and most of Nowra.

Ward 2 covers towns around Jervis Bay and to the south of Nowra, including Vincentia, Huskisson, Culburra and the southern outskirts of Nowra.

Ward 3 covers the southern half of the council, Ulladulla, Milton and Sussex Inlet.

Redistribution
All three wards were changed, but most of the changes did not involve a lot of voters shifting wards. About 90% of voters remain in the same ward.

Ward 2 was previously constrained to the coast but now stretches to the western border of the council area.

Ward 1 previously covered more area on the south side of the Shoalhaven River, but most of this area has been moved to Ward 2.

The border between Ward 2 and Ward 3 previously ran through the centre of Tomerong, but the town has been moved entirely into Ward 3.

Incumbent mayor
Amanda Findley (Greens)

Incumbent councillors

Ward 1 Ward 2 Ward 3
Annette Alldrick (Labor) Joanna Gash (Independent) Kaye Gartner (Greens)
Nina Digiglio (Greens) John Levett (Greens) Mark Kitchener (SIG)
Andrew Guile (SIG) Mitchell Pakes (SIG) Bob Proudfoot (SIG)
John Wells (Independent) Greg Watson (SIG) Patricia White (Ind)

History
Shoalhaven tends to vote for conservative parties at a state and federal level, but until recently there wasn’t as much structure in terms of parties on the council as there is now.

Greg Watson has been the leading figure in the Shoalhaven Independents Group for at least the last two decades. After having served as Mayor of Shoalhaven in the 1970s and 1980s, he won the directly-elected mayoralty in 1999.

Watson was re-elected in 2004 along with six other SIG councillors, giving them a majority. Four independents and two Greens were also elected.

Watson was defeated for re-election in 2008 by another independent, Paul Green, who polled 31% of the primary vote and ended up with 57% after preferences. Watson returned as one of four Shoalhaven Independents councillors, alongside eight other independents and one Green. Those eight independents were elected on six different tickets. Gareth Ward elected a second independent with him in Ward 1, and Paul Green’s running mate took his council seat in Ward 2 with him elected mayor. The other four were elected on solo tickets, and it is not clear if there was any broader faction that some of them may have belonged to.

Green and Ward were both elected to state parliament in 2011: Greens as a Christian Democratic member of the upper house and Ward as the Liberal MP for Kiama. Both vacated the council scene in 2012, but were replaced by another big political identity.

Joanna Gash had held the federal seat of Gilmore since 1996 (she would retire in 2013), and ran her own ticket for council with her as the mayoral candidate at the 2012 council election.

Team Gash won seven council seats, and Gash herself easily won the mayoralty with 63% of the primary vote. This gave her faction a clear council majority. The Shoalhaven Independents were reduced to just three seats, along with one independent and one Green.

The Gash wave did not last. The faction had polled almost 50% for council in 2012, but this dropped to less than 29% in 2016. The vote for Shoalhaven Independents shot up by 15%, and there was also a swing to the Greens of 7.7%. Labor also ran for the council for the first time in recent history.

Team Gash won just one seat in each council ward. Shoalhaven Independents won five, and the Greens also won a seat in each ward. Labor won their first seat.

The mayoral race was a close three-way race. Gash led on 37.4%, followed by the Greens’ Amanda Findley on 32.1% and Watson on 30.5%. Watson’s preferences boosted Findley and she won by 1394 votes.

The current council thus had a split of 5 Shoalhaven Independents, 4 Greens (including the mayor), one Labor and three for Team Gash. Thus a left-wing minority on the council sat alongside two different groups of conservative independents.

Greens and Labor supported Kitchener from the Shoalhaven Independents for deputy mayor and White from Team Gash for assistant deputy mayor in 2016.

White moved up to deputy mayor with Pakes from SIG as assistant deputy mayor, both unopposed, in 2017.

This peace broke down in 2018, when Joanna Gash’s two factional colleagues both broke with her and aligned with the Shoalhaven Independents, giving SIG a majority on the council. The Greens contested both leadership roles that year but lost both races to the incumbents.

Every leadership election since 2018 has been won by the expanded SIG, with Greens and Labor on the losing side, and Gash floating freely.

White and Pakes held those jobs yet again in 2019, with Labor’s Alldrick running with Greens support for deputy mayor. The Greens again contested both jobs unsuccessfully in 2020, with Watson returning to the deputy mayoralty.

Candidate summary
Sitting Greens mayor Amanda Findley is running for re-election, and the Greens have announced candidates for all three wards:

Labor has announced lead candidates for all three wards:

  • Nicole Moore (Ward 1)
  • John Kotlash (Ward 2)
  • Liza Butler (Ward 3)

Sitting councillor Nina Digiglio, elected as a Green in 2016, is running for the Shoalhaven Community First ticket:

Serena Copley is leading an independent ticket in Ward 1 while the Shoalhaven Independents ticket for Ward 1 is:

  1. Cr John Wells
  2. Selena Clancy
  3. Col Waller

Assessment
The election of a Greens mayor in 2016 was a big change from the kinds of people who usually win the mayoralty of Shoalhaven. The normal state of affairs has been restored on the council, with a conservative independent majority in power despite the Greens mayor.

It will be an uphill challenge for Findlay to be re-elected, or for a supportive council to be elected.

If the Labor and Greens vote stays at about the level they polled in 2016, you could see the two parties getting six seats. Labor came close to winning a seat in Ward 3, and did not run in Ward 2. In this scenario, the council would be split 6-6 between the left and right, and the winner of the mayoralty would set the direction of the council.

2016 council election result

PartyVotes%SwingSeats won
Shoalhaven Independents21,51036.77+15.35
Team Gash16,77128.67-20.73
Greens 12,29021.01+7.73
Labor 6,53111.16+11.21
Other independents1,3942.38-13.5
Informal3,6375.85

2016 mayoral election result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Joanna GashIndependent22,26437.35-25.8
Amanda FindleyGreens 19,15732.13+20.5
Greg WatsonShoalhaven Independents18,19630.52+16.1
Informal2,4133.89

2016 mayoral election two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%
Amanda FindleyGreens 26,49051.35
Joanna GashIndependent25,09648.65
Exhausted8,031

Vote breakdown by ward
The following tables show the vote in each ward before and after the recent redistribution, for council and for mayor.

The Shoalhaven Independents Group topped the poll in all three wards, with a vote ranging from 31.5% in Ward 1 to just over 39% in the other two wards. They won one seat in Ward 1 and two each in the other two.

Team Gash came second in each ward, with the Greens third. Each of these parties won one seat each in each ward.

Gash topped the mayoral poll in all three wards. The Shoalhaven Independents vote was highest in Ward 2, but less than the Greens in the other two wards.

The redistribution boosted SIG in wards 1 and 2 at expense of Ward 3. The Greens slightly improved in Ward 3 while Team Gash improved in Ward 2.

Council results by 2016 ward

WardSIG %GASH %GRN %ALP %
Ward 131.529.023.715.8
Ward 239.132.121.50.0
Ward 339.425.318.117.2

Mayoral results by 2016 ward

WardGash %GRN %SIG %
Ward 139.333.727.0
Ward 234.731.533.8
Ward 338.031.330.6

Council results by 2021 ward

WardSIG %GASH %GRN %ALP %
Ward 131.729.923.414.0
Ward 240.529.621.32.6
Ward 338.426.518.316.5

Mayoral results by 2021 ward

WardGash %GRN %SIG %
Ward 139.033.827.2
Ward 234.331.234.5
Ward 338.631.330.1

Election results at the 2016 City of Shoalhaven election
Toggle between primary votes for Shoalhaven Independents, Team Gash, the Greens and Labor.

Election results at the 2016 City of Shoalhaven mayoral election
Toggle between primary votes for Joanna Gash, Amanda Findley and Greg Watson.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t see Gash recovering since she is unlikely to run again which means her party/coalition will get even less votes without her presence. Most of those votes should benefit SIG, Don’t be surprised if SIG gets a majority.

    As for this area this area hasn’t changed much. It may have a federal Labor MP but that is only because the Liberals shot themselves at the foot choosing Warren Mundine as their candidate. The Libs would have held on is Schulz had been retained and I expect the Liberals will re-gain the seat easily at the next election as I expect a landslide victory for the coalition (COVID and the fact Labor is extremely unpopular with Albanese) The polls are wrong, believe me!

    I still question why the Liberals don’t contest the council elections here, It would be fair to say most GASH supporters are Liberal supporters but there is no real way of knowing if this is true or not then again it would make sense for conservatives in this region to vote for SIG or GASH considering they are the only real alternatives.

    The Mayoralship? No clue, One would expect the Greens could get a surge considering she is the incumbent but with COVID and the left being not too popular at the moment this could be quite unpredictable. I would like to know who the candidates for mayor are before I can make a prediction for that election.

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