Mayors should be 'elected by the people'

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba will continue to push for her position to be popularly elected, after the issue won the support of the NSW Local Government Review Panel.

The panel, which released its report on Wednesday, recommended local government areas with more than 40,000 people should directly elect their mayor.

When council elections resumed in Wollongong and Shellharbour in 2011 after a period of the councils being run by administrators, Wollongong returned to a system under which voters directly elected the mayor. But changes made to local government law meant Shellharbour's mayor was chosen by councillors following their election.

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Following the release of the panel's report this week, Ms Saliba said she would continue to push for popular election.

"There has been a clear indication that councils of over 40,000 should have a popularly elected mayor," she said.

"I believe the state government should get on and implement that.

"If the state government saw it in their wisdom to act on the recommendation of that report then, in 2016, the residents of Shellharbour City would get to elect their own mayor," she said.

To implement the change, the government could introduce legislation covering each local government area where the mayoral election should change. But it is more likely the issue will be left to councils to decide, with a referendum attached to their next council poll.

It is not certain that this would win the support of Shellharbour councillors.

Ms Saliba did not succeed with her previous attempt to launch the process for change last year, when she used a mayoral minute to call for a report into the costs of such a referendum.

The move was defeated at a council meeting by four votes to three.

Local Government Minister Don Page later confirmed that a referendum was the only way the process would change.

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