New look councils looming


New look councils looming

Longest running: South Gippsland Shire Councillor Bob Newton hopes to continue his 19 year run at the table, but says he isn’t too confident of his chances in the vote count this weekend.

THIS week’s elections promise to turn municipal life on its head in South Gippsland and Bass Coast.

The record 26 candidates in Bass Coast and six in South Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ward have delivered a strong vote for democracy.

Ballot papers must be in by 6pm this Friday.

Voting in Bass Coast, particularly in Wonthaggi-centred Hovell Ward, is expected to go down to the wire. The possibility of a recount is strong, which would add another three hours to determining the result.

Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) staff are expected to spend all day on Saturday counting votes.

However South Gippsland returning officer Sheryl Bruce won’t be declaring the poll until 10am Monday and no one is an elected candidate until then.

Bass Coast’s poll will be declared at 10am Sunday at the Bass Coast Shire Council offices in Wonthaggi.

Two sitting South Gippsland councillors – Bob Newton and Jeanette Harding – could well lose their seats, while two new councillors have waltzed unopposed in to Tarwin Valley Ward to join Cr Jim Fawcett. They are Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks and Don Hill.

Cr Newton is South Gippsland’s longest-serving councillor but he thinks his 19-year reign may end, with five others vying for Strzelecki Ward’s three seats. They’re all newcomers. Some of his opponents have given him their second preferences, but others have put him last.

Cr Newton said getting a place in the most highly contested ward would be difficult, and believes his fellow candidate’s preferences were not in his favour come the vote count.

“I’m not really confident but we’ll see what happens. I just think it’s an unknown at the moment; I don’t know what people think or how people vote,” he said.

“Being the only current councillor could help me, but I haven’t got many preferences; that’s the only thing. They haven’t been preferenced very well at all.”

Cr Newton has received five different preferences from candidates, ranging from second through to last.

And while the majority of the Strzelecki candidates have been out campaigning for months, Cr Newton said he had only done minimal work through Korumburra.

“If people don’t know me now, they never will. I just have to keep my fingers crossed,” he said.

Lorraine Brunt is another candidate unhappy with the preferences, and believes she was placed last by three candidates as she is seen as a “threat”.

“I’m a bit disappointed in the men. Because I’m the only woman standing, I think they saw that as a real threat and put me last, but I don’t think that’s the case at all,” she said.

“I think they should’ve welcomed a woman in. Every council needs to be well represented by different genders and people to bring different aspects to the council table.”

Ms Brunt said she now feels the vote is up to the people and encouraged them to make up their own mind rather than follow the preferences listed.

Cr Jeanette Harding is predicting “a toss of the coin” between herself and Bruce Beatson for Coastal-Promontory Ward, which has four candidates for three places.

Only one candidate will miss out on a place and Cr Harding was the third selection over Mr Beatson in the 2005 election.

“We both had to rely on preferences last time and I don’t expect that to be a lot different,” Mr Beatson said.

“For either of us to get a quota in the first ballot would be difficult. I have great respect for Jeanette, but with the very demographic of where we are, it’s ultimately likely to be that way.”

Ms Harding, on the other hand, doesn’t believe Mr Beatson will be her main rival.

“I get a lot of votes from Foster as well and I honestly think it’s going to be pretty close – it’s a toss of the coin,” she said.

There is particular interest in Bass Coast where retired state politician Alan Brown is leading a group of candidates in each ward called a “reform team”. They have campaigned strongly on financial waste, announcing a “top down” review which some residents are translating as job and service cuts.

Mr Brown himself is a candidate for Hovell Ward. He said yesterday this is his 10th election campaign. If his team is voted in, Mr Brown will be mayor.

He wouldn’t predict the result, saying, “I always leave the outcomes of elections up to the voters.”

Jack Clancy wouldn’t call it either. He’s over 90, served 25 years on the former Wonthaggi Borough Council and still has his finger on the Wonthaggi pulse.

“It’s a bit all over the place. It’s going to be very close; it’s too hard to call,” he said.

Mr Brown faces opposition from sitting councillor John Duscher, Jessica Harrison and Neil Rankine. All four candidates have high profiles in the local and wider community.

Ms Harrison said she thinks the controversy in Bass Coast has motivated people to take an interest in the election.

“People are looking forward to a new council but reject cuts in jobs and services,” she said.

Bass Coast Townsend Ward candidate Jordan Crugnale is intrigued by the fact that a number of reform team candidates have preferenced sitting councillors.

“How much reform do they actually want?” she said.

But it only applies in two wards. Mr Brown has given his second preferences to John Duscher and team member Murray Hooper has done the same for incumbent Ross Smith in Townsend.

Preferences only come into play if no one candidate gains a majority of primary votes.

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Posted by on Oct 23 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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