Gympie's councillors are divided over whether a debate on going undivisional, as some of the region's residents have suggested, is worth having.
Gympie's councillors are divided over whether a debate on going undivisional, as some of the region's residents have suggested, is worth having. The Gympie Times

Councillors question public care factor on voting system

IS THE council divisional debate a matter of importance or a media beat-up?

A motion calling for community consultation on whether to remove the region's divisions left councillors split at yesterday's meeting, with debate stalled amid questions of cost, timing and need.

Cr Mal Gear's motion tried to get the ball moving, saying it was "time the community has its say", but other councillors were less than convinced a divisional debate was a chat the region had to have.

"It's a bit of a blow up from the media to sell papers," Cr Dan Stewart said.

"I don't see the need to go through it again after six years."

 

Gympie councilor Dan Stewart.
Cr Dan Stewart. Renee Albrecht

This detail, that the last State Government consultation was done in 2012, was a key part of Cr Mark McDonald's argument against the motion too.

"Somewhere along the line councillors have forgotten that went out to the people then," he said.

"How are you going to ask the community in a different way than in 2012?"

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How many wanted to have a debate was questioned by Cr McDonald, especially given any bill would be footed by ratepayers.

"Only the interested ones will have a say," he said.

And he doubted how many of those there were.

"I've not had one person approach me about divisions or non-divisions," he said.

"I'm not hearing it.

"I know there's been three letters in the paper from high profile people, but there's low profile people too."

 

Rainbow Beach main street Cr Mark McDonald.
Cr Mark McDonald. Renee Albrecht

Cr Hilary Smerdon also questioned whether it was an issue many people felt passionate about.

"Apart from three letters to the editor no-one's spoken to me," he said.

Instead of arguing for or against the motion, Cr Bob Fredman suggested Cr Gear's motion lay on the table until more details could be established.

"I'd prefer a staff report on methods and costs," he said.

"It would be best to know before recommendations."

Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch supported Cr Fredman's call to lay it on the table motion, but pointed out that even doing a report into what the cost would be was spending ratepayers' money.

 

Councillor Bob Leitch. Photo Renee Albrecht/Gympie Times
Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch. Renee Albrecht

On the question of a final say over whether divisions stay, Mayor Mick Curran and Cr Daryl Dodt pointed out that how the councillors themselves felt was irrelevant.

"It's not the councillor's decision to make," Cr Curran said.

He also noted the council's divisional boundaries were likely to be redrawn for the next election as a result of the region's growth.

Goomeri grazier John Cotter last month lobbied the council to abolish divisions, saying it took away some of the democratic say residents had over councils and also left areas isolated.

 

John Cotter
John Cotter. Scott Kovacevic

"We used to see a lot of the councillors a lot of the time," Mr Cotter said.

"I would struggle to say I've got a relationship with more than one or two of them now."

It is hoped the report is back before the council at its December 12 meeting.