Council elections postponed until December

Local government elections, due to be held on September 4, have been postponed in response to the COVID-19 situation.

Cootamundra-Gundagai residents will now head to the polls on Saturday, December 4, to vote for their new council.

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said the decision to postpone the elections was made after extensive consultation with and advice from the NSW Electoral Commission and NSW Health.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current Public Health Orders impacting Greater Sydney, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the local government elections until later this year,” Mrs Hancock said.

“We have taken this step to postpone the election to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities, voters, polling staff and candidates.”

The NSW Government has worked with the Electoral Commission and NSW Health to implement a comprehensive plan to allow voters to cast their ballot safely in person, by post or online.

iVote (electronic voting) will also be available for the first time in the local council elections and the NSW Government has implemented changes to pre-poll to ensure that voters have 13 days to cast their ballot, reducing congestion on polling day.

The government has made available a total of $57 million for the elections in 2021, including $37 million to deliver them in a COVID safe way.

In this election, 5.2 million voters will cast their ballots as around 5,000 candidates vie for 1,200 councillor positions across 125 local councils.

Nominations will open on Monday, October 25, 2021, and close on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Prospective candidates can find more information at the Office of Local Government website at www.olg.nsw.gov.au.

Meanwhile, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) says the NSW Government must commit to holding COVID safe local government elections before year’s end, to uphold democracy and ensure renewal. 

LGNSW president Linda Scott said public health and safety must always come first.

“But we do not want to reach a situation in which democracy delayed is democracy denied,” Cr Scott said.

“This latest three-month deferral comes on top of an existing deferral of 12 months from September 2020, with no guarantee further delays won’t be incurred.

“Delaying elections further is a risk to democracy.”

Cr Scott said a significant number of existing councillors, who had already been asked to extend their term by 12 months, had already chosen not to stand for a further term.

“The need for local government leaders has never been greater, as communities and their local economies struggle with the impact caused by going into, out and back into lockdown again,” she said.

“Local governments need energetic, dedicated local leaders as mayors and councillors. Regional NSW local governments are particularly eager for safe NSW elections to proceed, with many areas of NSW without a single COVID exposure. Why should the rest of NSW have to suffer because of COVID cases in Sydney?

“The NSW Government must publish the NSW health advice that underpins this decision.

“Delaying elections further is a risk that the strong candidates we need and deserve cannot dedicate the time and money required to continue their campaigns for a further three months.”

Cr Scott said council elections took up to 12 months to organise, with the newly-announced rescheduling likely to burden councils with further resourcing and administrative costs.

“Unfortunately these additional costs will divert council funding from the hard work they are doing to drive a locally-led recovery, not just from the economic impacts of the pandemic but also the floods and bushfires that preceded it,” she said.

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