Councillors defend mayor election process

The majority of Shellharbour councillors have declared their support for a system that sees the city’s seven councillors elect the mayor each year.

Councillor Helen Stewart said the reality was ‘‘you can get a dud either way’’, but said she believed the current system implemented by the NSW Government in 2011 was working.

On Tuesday night a mayoral minute by Marianne Saliba called for a report on the costs associated with holding a referendum on the issue, however the motion was defeated 4-2.

Cr Saliba said the fact Shellharbour residents had their rights to select their own mayor taken away was ‘‘undemocratic’’ and potentially changing mayors every 12 months was ‘‘disruptive’’.

‘‘The decision on who should be mayor should not be one made by seven people when the mayor represents a city of 80,000,’’ Cr Saliba said.

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However Cr Helen Stewart said under the previous system, which saw the mayor popularly elected ‘‘democracy flew out the door’’.

‘‘We no longer have wards, which is a good thing, and we have seven councillors which is good because no political party can have a stranglehold,’’ Cr Stewart said.

‘‘I believe in this area [Shellharbour City] one political  party would have an advantage and the person put up by that party will always be the mayor.

‘‘I don’t want to see that, I want to see people work together.

‘‘I also think the councillors are the best people to evaluate how the person is performing in that role.

‘‘If there is harmony and respect for that person then there is no need to change the mayor.’’

Cr Peter Moran pointed out there was irony in the comment the decision was ‘‘undemocratically taken away’’, when it was made by a State Government that had been democratically elected.

Cr Saliba said it was undemocratic that Wollongong retained a popularly elected mayor and Shellharbour didn’t.

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