Discomfort over VEC review submission
 Baw Baw News  

By // 13:45, Monday 31 August 2015

baw baw shire sign for the warragul citizen newspaper by william pj kulich

BAW BAW // A MINORITY of councillors have expressed concerns about Baw Baw’s submission the Victorian Electoral Commission’s review of the council’s ward structure.

First published in the 14 August 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen – all dates relative to then. Click here to read the full edition online.

The VEC is undertaking a review of electoral representation in Baw Baw and has sought input from the community on what people think might work best.


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Baw Baw’s councillors this week voted to endorse the council’s own submission, but the vote was not unanimous.

Mount Worth ward councillor Peter Kostos and North ward councillor David Balfour spoke against the endorsement motion, arguing the council was going in the wrong direction and larger wards were not the answer.

The council’s submission states “the current model works reasonably well but would benefit from minor modifications.”

The shire has made the following recommendations for review by the VEC:

“1. Multi-councillor wards are working well

“2. The current number of nine councillors is working well

“3. Many travel corridors within the shire run north south rather than east west and the wards should reflect this

“4. An unsubdivided model could not adequately ensure that residents in outlying smaller areas and townships are represented

“5. A mix of multi-councillor and single-councillor wards would result in inconsistent vote counting systems within the municipality and this may be confusing and present an unnecessary cost to residents


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“6. Wards that define the larger towns of Warragul and Drouin so as to exclude the more rural areas within the municipality, or cause a “donut effect” risk creating a sense of provincialism within

the municipality would likely prove to be detrimental and foster a sense of adversary between wards.”

A map provided with the council’s submission showed a proposed new ward layout, with a three member ward for Drouin and areas north and south, a four councillor ward for Warragul and areas roughly north and south, and a massive two member ward for everywhere east of that – roughly half the shire.

The present ward structure has a ward for Warragul, another for Drouin and two larger wards for everywhere else.

The objections centred around the scale of wards.

“One of the main reasons I want to speak against, to state my case, is I don’t know what the VEC has in mind,” Cr Kostos said.

“I saw a change from single councillor wards in 2005-08 to what we have now. In 2012 we retained the current boundaries with minor tweaks.

“I know it’s very difficult at the moment – we have a lot of travel [in the larger wards.]

“The current submissions sees a very large ward in the eastern end.

“I would really like councillors to consider at least keeping the same structure… to make it, I believe, better accessible for councillors to access their constituents.

“I do believe that we should keep the current structure.”

Cr Balfour, who initially said he was “a bit either way” about the motion, said a return to an older system might work better for the more regional areas.


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“I believe the system we had seven years ago… was much easier to work and communicate with your local communities,” Cr Balfour said.

“In the last seven to eight years [I’ve had to visit] so many community groups. It’s a lot for two councillors to keep up with.

“Over the last seven years I’ve probably let other communities down because I’ve been involved in other issues.”

Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci was one of the majority who supported the motion.

“I’m a Warragul ward councillor, [the farthest I travel is] the outskirts of Warragul,” he said.

“This spreads the burden on councillors a little more.”

“If you look at the structure of the wards at the moment, Noojee links right into Warragul [but is in a different ward].”

Cr Gauci warned against any suggestions Baw Baw become a single ward council.

“My view would be if we had a one vote one person station, we could have six councillors of nine from Warragul, or all nine from the two major towns,” he said.

baw baw wards review warragul baw baw citizen mod

Above: the proposed new ward structure, in blue. From the Baw Baw Shire Council 12 August 2015 meeting agenda supplemental.

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4 responses to “Discomfort over VEC review submission”

  1. Simon says:

    Are submissions closed?

  2. Simon says:

    I answered my own question. They closed on August 19. But we can make submissions in response to the preliminary report after September 16

  3. Simon says:

    Their point 5 about a mix of multi- and single-councillor wards is a good one.

    They could also have said that having such a mix is a good way to gerrymander results, if you have single-councillor wards in areas that favour a certain side, and multi-councillor wards in areas that aren’t so favourable to that side (they’ll still likely pick up one of the proportional positions.)

    And the same applies to having a mix of wards with different of councillors, if you make the quota higher in areas where your opponents don’t poll well, and make the quota lower in the areas where you don’t poll so well.

    Not that I’m saying this has happened here. Nevertheless, it is not democratic that the quota would be 20% in Warragul, 25% in Drouin, and 33.33% in the East.

    The only three outcomes with 9 councillors that make democratic sense are:
    – 9 single councillor wards (quota 50% for everyone)
    – 3 wards of three councillors each (quota 25% for everyone)
    – the council elected as a whole (quota 10% for everyone)

    The easiest way to fix the council proposal would be for part of the Warragul ward to be excised and added to the Eastern ward, so that both wards would be of equivalent population to the Drouin ward, with 3 councillors each. It would make that Eastern ward even larger, but there would be an extra councillor to cover the kilometres. Having democratic councils is much more important than having small wards.

  4. david wombat lyons says:

    I like the Idea of 3 wards, i like the idea of mixing warragul and drouin with a greater number of smaller town communities. I think each ward should have 3 people as councillors and yes, thats what i said in a personal submission to the VEC