Gympie council divisions may have to be redrawn
WHILE debate storms on around whether Gympie council should have divisions, the region's growth could force the battle lines to be redrawn anyway.
There are now 36,570 voters in this region, a number that has grown by almost 6000 since 2011, when divisions were first introduced.
And although the divisional system is designed to grow along with it, the fact that growth is not uniform could put the squeeze on current boundaries.
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Over the past two elections the biggest growth was experienced in Division 3 (Chatsworth, The Palms, Bells Bridge, Araluen), which increased its enrolment by 16 per cent, while Division 7 (Southside, Jones Hill, Pie Creek) ballooned 15 per cent and Division 2 (North Deep Creek, Veteran, Curra, Gunalda), 13 per cent.
Division 4 (Gympie) voter numbers increased only four per cent.
If those rates remain the same, at the next election Division 4 would fall short of the "reasonable proportion of electors” required under the Local Government Act while Division 7 could have broken its banks.
And if northern Gympie's growth picks up, Division 3 could also find itself more overstuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey.
So what happens if it does?
Under current regulations, divisions must have a "reasonable proportion of electors”.
This is calculated by dividing the divisions, with a 10 per cent buffer on either side.
For example, when boundaries were drawn up in 2011, each electorate needed to have from 3455 to 4223 voters.
Under the map drawn up, Division 1 (Cooloola Coast) ended up with the most with 4089 (six per cent above average) while Division 2 had the least with 3674.
Division 4 was almost spot on the mark - but was the area with the least room for the population to expand in.
A Queensland Electoral Commission spokeswoman said the last extensive boundary review was done eight years ago when divisions were brought in. Gympie Regional Council is required under the act to check the voter levels ahead of every council election. This must be done by March 1, the year before.
"If a council's divisions do not meet this requirement, then the boundaries must be reviewed to ensure enrolment within the divisions is equitably distributed,” the ECQ spokeswoman said.
"This ensures each person has equal democratic representation.”
She said Gympie council has until March 1, next year to advise if divisional voting numbers were "reasonable”.
"Only the Minister for Local Government may then propose a local government change to the Change Commission.”
If any changes are proposed, public submissions and hearings may happen. It will not just be a case of drawing a new line or two, though. The Local Government Change Commission will consider future growth so boundaries don't have to be changed every election.
When divisions were proposed, the Gympie region had just 10 days to provide feedback. The Commission agreed it had been working under a less than ideal time frame.
Eight submissions were received, with the size of Division 6 the biggest sticking point.
"This Division 6 boundary is really too large and the time spent travelling could be unproductive, how to improve this boundary and adhere to the guidelines will be difficult,” said David Burnett.
He was backed by Ray Currie, who argued the area "is almost half the physical size of the council area, and the suggested population is the average for council”.