A challenging time to hold elections
Now that we know what our local councils are going to look like after the recent local government elections, it is time to start considering how we work with them on the matters that are important to us. But first, let’s acknowledge that despite the difficult circumstances under which these elections were conducted, the results are much better than we were anticipating.
The expectation that the lockdown conditions would favour candidates able to spend on more expensive forms of advertising did not eventuate. An army of foot-soldiers distributing scorecards and other material to letterboxes plus the digital forums by Lighter Footprints and other local groups served as effective counterweights to addressed mail and slick social media campaigns.
Whitehorse moves to single member wards
These were the first elections conducted under the new Victorian Government Act 2020 which, amongst many other things, changed electoral systems from multi member to single member wards. Whitehorse now has 11 single member wards replacing the former five multi-member wards. Boroondara remained a single member system with one new ward to make eleven.
The successful candidates for Boroondara are Jim Parke (Bellevue), Felicity Sinfield (Cotham), Victor Franco (Gardiner), Wes Gault (Glenferrie), Di Gillies (Junction), Lisa Hollingsworth (Lynden), Jane Addis (Maling), Cynthia Watson (Maranoa), Susan Biggar (Riversdale), Garry Thompson (Solway), and Nick Stavrou (Studley).
The new Whitehorse Council comprises Andrew Munroe (Cootamundra), Trudy Skilbek (Eley), Blair Barker (Elgar), Amanda McNeill (Kingsley), Denise Massoud (Lake), Mark Lane (Mahoneys), Prue Cutts (Simpson), Tina Lui (Sparks), Raylene Carr (Terrara), Ben Stennett (Walker), and Andrew Davenport (Wattle).
New faces at Council
These results show some encouraging aspects and notable differences to the 2016 election. These include a substantial change in the faces around the Council table. For Boroondara, three Councillors stepped down, one failed to be re-elected and five new people were successful. In Whitehorse, one stepped down, one failed to be re-elected and four new Councillors were elected.
Thank you to Coral Ross
One face we will miss is Coral Ross who has been an effective and independent representative for Boroondara since she was elected 2002. After more than 18 years of dedicated service as a councillor for the City of Boroondara, including three terms as mayor, Cr Ross has decided now is the right time to stand aside. For the past 18 months, Coral was also President of the Municipal Association of Victoria. We acknowledge the support she has given to our activities and to the participation of women in local government. She always asked the pertinent question and listened carefully to her constituents.
Increased voter turnout
A pleasing aspect is the substantial increase in voter turnout in 2020 compared to 2016. The reason is not clear but we hope this reflects a growing awareness within our communities of the importance of local government and the role councils play in economic, social and environmental matters.
A positive for climate action
We see the results, particularly in Boroondara, as positive and supporting the prospect for change. Four of the five new Councillors have demonstrated high levels of support for climate action in their election material and responses to questioning associated with the Kooyong Climate Change Alliance scorecard. In two of the wards that ultimately went to conservatives, candidates with positive views on climate change action attracted more than 50 percent of all first preferences in Bellevue; and in Studley, the independent Annabel Yates lost by only 190 votes.
Better prospects for a Climate Emergency Declaration (CED)
Over 30 of the 79 Local Government Councils in Victoria have acknowledged or declared a climate emergency. The recent election results in Boroondara suggest an increased level of support for a Climate Emergency Declaration by the new council. Previously, there were three Councillors who supported a CED and the implementation of a related plan and seven who opposed it. While one of the declaration supporters has retired, at least three of the new Councillors support a CED.
Whereto from here?
Lighter Footprints will now seek to work closely with the new Council to support the implementation of actions aligned to the needs of the environment and good governance. We look forward to the forthcoming report on the Council’s recent Climate Action Plan community consultation.
The Lighter Footprints Local Government Working Group would welcome your involvement. We are wanting to work with the new and existing Councillors in both Boroondara and Whitehorse and are putting together plans and policies for doing this.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Local Government Working Group please complete the form here.
If you need more information, please call Anne Young on 0408 586 811 or Joy Mettam on 0419 989 590
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