Pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler has had a win with new Electoral Commission recommendations.
Pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler has had a win with new Electoral Commission recommendations. Craig Warhurst

Gympie looks set to have divisions

GYMPIE Region seems set to have divisions, or council electorates, following next year's election.

Electoral Commission recommendations now under consideration by Local Government Minister Paul Lucas call for divisional representation to be introduced in Townsville, Fraser Coast and Gympie councils.

The recommendations, which could significantly affect election results, follow public meetings and random surveys in each of the three council areas.

Mayor Ron Dyne and pro-divisions advocate Reg Lawler yesterday both described the recommendations as a sign of a healthy democracy, despite their well-known and strongly opposing views on the subject.

"Democracy" was the word of the day yesterday, after the announcement of a planned new voting system for the upcoming Gympie Regional Council election.

Despite strongly opposing views on whether councillors should be elected across the region or from individual electorates or divisions, both sides of the debate agreed that the review was democratic.

Mayor Dyne said he did not agree with the recommendations, "but everyone's got an opinion and that's the beauty of living in a democracy".

Mr Lawler said: "We are very lucky to live in a democracy where the people can win against the entrenched, biased, self-serving power of our council," he said.

Cr Dyne said he believed Gympie Region was better administered by a council elected across the whole area, but Mr Lawler has argued that this makes campaigning too expensive for lesser-known new candidates, and favours sitting councillors and teams or parties.

The Electoral Commission recommendations follow public meetings and random opinion surveys conducted in all three council areas by the Change Commission, the body which administered the council amalgamations.

The recommendations are now subject to consideration by Local Government Minister Paul Lucas.

An ECQ statement said the random sample opinion polls underlying the recommendations were carried out with assistance from the Institute for Social Science research at the University of Queensland.

"I don't think that having divisions in Gympie is the best approach," Cr Dyne said.

Cr Dyne said the next challenge would be for the ECQ to draw suitable electoral boundaries in time for the poll.

He said the commission had indicated it would need council help to achieve this.

"I don't know how many staff they've got but they'd better get their backsides into gear.

"It really needs to be done by December so people can understand where they're going."

Mr Lawler said Imbil-based councillor Jan Watt was "the only sitting councillor to emerge from this matter with credit".

"Cr Watt and I disagreed on quite a few matters but she was consistent in her demand that the council listen to what the people wanted.

"Thanks are due to Mr Lucas and our local member, David Gibson, who supported asking the people."