Wollongong council election, 2021

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.

The council has a population of about 218,000 as of 2019.

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.

Redistribution
There was no significant changes to the border between Ward 1 and Ward 2. There were areas swapped in both directions between Ward 2 and Ward 3. The remainder of Port Kembla was moved into Ward 3, as was the remainder of Farmborough Heights, while the remainder of Figtree was moved into Ward 2.

Incumbent mayor
Gordon Bradbery (Independent)

Incumbent councillors

Ward 1 Ward 2 Ward 3
Leigh Colacino (Liberal) Cath Blakey (Greens) Dom Figliomeni (Ind)
Mithra Cox (Greens) David Brown (Labor) Vicky King (Labor)
Janice Kershaw (Labor) Tania Brown (Labor) Ann Martin (Labor)1
Jenelle Rimmer (Labor) John Dorahy (Liberal) Cameron Walters (Liberal)

1Ann Martin was elected at a by-election on 24 November 2018 after the resignation of Labor councillor Chris Connor.

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.

Wollongong swung to the left in 2017. The Greens retained two seats, and Gordon Bradbery’s running mate Dom Figliomeni won a seat. Labor won two extra seats for a total of six seats, while the Liberal Party were reduced to three seats. Bradbery was re-elected as lord mayor, but by a much slimmer margin compared to 2011.

Labor holds six out of thirteen seats, giving them a dominant role on the council. Labor’s Dave Brown was elected deputy mayor in 2017 with the support of everyone except the Liberal Party.

The Greens and independents supported either the Liberal Party or the Greens candidate for deputy mayor in 2018, but when the Greens candidate was knocked out they switched to support Labor.

Brown was re-elected in 2019, again defeating Liberal and Greens opponents.

Candidate summary
Sitting independent mayor Gordon Bradbery is running for re-election as lord mayor.

The Greens are running Ward 1 councillor Mithra Cox for lord mayor. For council their candidates are:

  • Ward 1
    1. Mithra Cox
    2. Bronwyn Batten
  • Cath Blakey (Ward 2)
  • Jess Whittaker (Ward 3)

Assessment
It wouldn’t take much for Labor to win a majority in Wollongong. Probably the easiest path would be to win the mayoralty, which Bradbery holds by a 4.2% margin. There’s also potential to win a third seat in Ward 3, either off the Bradbery team or the Liberal Party.

Bradbery has made a deliberate choice to not run candidates across the council, which weakens his position on the council. It doesn’t look like 2021 will be any different.

2017 council election result

PartyVotes%SwingSeats won
Labor 47,20040.90+10.66
Liberal 29,60225.65-5.43
Greens 19,74517.11+7.32
Independents18,84316.33-12.61
Informal8,8147.10

2017 mayoral election result

CandidatePartyVotes%Swing
Gordon BradberyIndependent41,58135.18+0.2
David Brown Labor 32,38627.40+8.1
John Dorahy Liberal 19,67216.64-6.4
Mithra Cox The Greens 12,29110.40+4.7
John MullanIndependent4,0373.42+3.4
Vicki CurranIndependent3,2802.77+0.4
Andrew AnthonyIndependent1,7081.44-0.2
Greg PettyIndependent1,6601.40-0.7
Warwick ErwinIndependent1,5901.35+1.4
Informal5,9744.81

2017 mayoral election two-candidate-preferred result

CandidatePartyVotes%
Gordon BradberyIndependent47,46554.23
David Brown Labor 40,06745.77
Exhausted30,673

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

Labor topped the primary vote for council in all three wards, with a vote ranging from 50% in Ward 3 to 34.7% in Ward 2.

The Liberal Party came second in all three wards, with a vote ranging from 17.5% to 33%. The Liberal Party came close to overtaking Labor in Ward 2, but barely polled a third as many votes in Ward 1.

The Greens vote is highest at the northern end of the council, ranging from 9% in Ward 3 to 22.3% in Ward 1.

One ticket ran in wards 1 and 3, with Gordon Bradbery’s independent ticket polling 21.8% in Ward 3, and winning a seat for his running mate.

The mayoral vote looked very different, with about a third of the vote going to Bradbery. His vote ranged from 38.8% in Ward 2 to 30.8% in Ward 1.

Bradbery dented the vote of all three big parties, but their patterns remained relatively steady.

The changes to wards 2 and 3 reduced the Labor vote in both wards, and increased the Greens vote in both wards. The Liberal vote was strengthened in Ward 3.

Council results by 2017 ward

WardALP %LIB %GRN %IND %
Ward 138.825.722.313.2
Ward 234.733.019.412.9
Ward 350.017.59.023.5

Mayoral results by 2017 ward

WardBradbery %ALP %LIB %GRN %
Ward 130.825.718.114.2
Ward 238.823.717.410.6
Ward 335.833.414.36.0

Council results by 2021 ward

WardALP %LIB %GRN %IND %
Ward 138.825.722.313.2
Ward 234.532.919.612.9
Ward 349.418.39.323.0

Mayoral results by 2021 ward

WardBradbery %ALP %LIB %GRN %
Ward 130.825.718.114.2
Ward 238.823.417.510.8
Ward 336.033.214.46.0

Election results at the 2017 City of Wollongong election
Toggle between primary votes for Labor, Liberal, Greens and independent candidates.

Election results at the 2017 City of Wollongong mayoral election
Toggle between primary votes for Gordon Bradbery, Dave Brown, John Dorahy and Mithra Cox.

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