Council decides popularly elected mayor referendum question

Kyogle Council electors will be asked in a referendum whether or not they want a popularly elected mayor (a popularly elected mayor is elected by voters at the same time as they elect councillors).

The referendum will be held in conjunction with State-wide Local Government elections in September.

Council resolved in April 2022 to conduct a referendum on having a popularly elected mayor, with Councillors indicating at the time they wanted to maintain a system of wards and the current number of Councillors (nine).

With the election to be held this year, the Council at its 11 March 2024 meeting decided the question voters will be asked at the referendum. It  will be:

Do you favour the election of the Mayor by electors for a four-year term with the number of wards reduced from three to two, each ward comprising of four councillors, plus a popularly elected Mayor?

Currently, Council has three wards, with three Councillors in each ward and the mayor elected by Councillors from among themselves — making a total of nine councillors.

However, if the council is to have a popularly elected mayor and still have a total of nine councillors, voters will have to elect a mayor and eight councillors (making a total of nine).

As there must be an even representation of Councillors in each ward, Council is proposing to reduce the number of wards to two and have four councillors elected from each ward.

As well as deciding on the referendum question, the Council at the March meeting endorsed an information pamphlet to be made available to voters which outlines the pros and cons of a popularly elected Mayor.

The arguments for and against a popularly elected mayor as outlined on the information pamphlet are:

The YES case

  • Popular election of the Mayor excludes internal politics from the Mayoral Election.
  • A popularly elected Mayor can lead Council with considerable independence.
  • A popularly elected Mayor is elected by the people and as such is seen as the community’s elected leader.
  • Popular election of the Mayor enables the residents an opportunity to consider the candidates’ policies and vote accordingly thus providing the Mayor with an election mandate.
  • The possibility of the Mayor being elected “out of the hat” is avoided in the event that two or more Councillors receive equal votes.
  • A reduction in Wards will help to better manage any imbalance of elector numbers between Wards.

The NO case

  • The elected Council should not have a leader imposed upon them with whom they may not be able to work cooperatively or constructively.
  • A change in leadership cannot occur during the term unless the Mayor resigns or dies and then a by-election is required.
  • Councillors are closest to their fellow Councillors and therefore have a greater appreciation of their capabilities and credentials to fulfil the role of Mayor.
  • Having a popularly elected Mayor increases the administrative costs of elections and by-elections.
  • A further Constitutional Referendum would be required if Council wished to return to the current system of election of Mayor.
  • Councillors will have larger ward areas, with greater population to represent

To view the full information pamphlet, click here.

You can also pick up a hard copy of the pamphlet from Council’s administration centre.