Pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler wants people of all views to have their say.
Pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler wants people of all views to have their say. Craig Warhurst

A region ‘divided'

GYMPIE Region voters will have plenty to confer about at a public meeting on electoral divisions at Gympie Conference Centre next Thursday.

The issue, divisive in more ways than one, has become a running sore for the council and some residents, who claim they would be better represented if the council had divisions, or council electorates, as is the case immediately at Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

The trouble started more than two years ago when then Local Government Minister Desley Boyle raised the possibility of reconsidering electoral arrangements in some of the then-recently amalgamated Queensland local authorities.

Imbil resident and councillor Jan Watt said she did not think divisions would work with the Gympie Region's population spread, but said community consultation was "imperative."

Pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler said people were told at the 2008 election that there was insufficient time to discuss divisions.

He claimed Crs Julie Walker and Rae Gate had promised to support divisions, a position which has since changed.

Mr Lawler says election of all councillors across the whole region means campaigns by candidates would have to be waged over the whole region, something which was impractical or very expensive for unknown or new candidates. This tended to favour sitting councillors, because they had more chance to make themselves known across the region, he said.

Yesterday he claimed this was a significant conflict of interest with sitting councillors voting for elections under a system which provided them with a campaign advantage.

Another argument is that electing councillors across the region gives an unfair advantage to Gympie voters because their numbers would dominate.

The counter argument, advanced by Mayor Ron Dyne and fellow councillors is that divisions as allowed under the amalgamation laws would still tend to disenfranchise outer-region residents, because, to meet one vote-one value requirements, all divisions would have to incorporate parts of Gympie city and all would be dominated by more numerous Gympie voters.

Mr Lawler says Cr Dyne had ruled that there would be no consultation on the issue before the council notified its position, in favour of the present system.

Consultation did occur, however, and showed people favoured divisions. But this result was ignored by the council, until current Minister Paul Lucas instituted a consultation process, including Thursday's 2.30pm meeting.