DEMOCRACY is alive on the Mornington Peninsula with 43 candidates vying for places in the shire’s six wards at this month’s election.
It’s a far cry from the previous election in 2008 when six of 11 seats were uncontested, with five councillors returned unchallenged and one, this year’s mayor Cr Frank Martin, not even facing the voters.
Cr Martin took over from the retiring David Jarman in Red Hill Ward and was not opposed.
The 43-candidate list is vindication of the Victorian Electoral Commission’s decision to redraw the ward boundaries and create three multi-councillor wards from eight single-councillor wards on the more populous, Port Phillip side of the municipality.
Of the 43 candidates, 33 are standing in the three new multi-councillor wards between Portsea and Mt Eliza (see map on Page 5).
Nepean Ward between Portsea and Rye has eight candidates seeking the two seats.
Seawinds Ward between Tootgarook and Safety Beach has 14 candidates going for three seats on the council.
Briars Ward between Mt Martha and Mt Eliza has 11 people chasing three seats.
The three wards on the Western Port side stay as single-councillor areas.
The Victorian Electoral Commission in January recommended the changes, which were accepted by the state government.
The changes were designed to ensure “fair and equitable representation”, according to VEC boss Steve Tully.
Mr Tully telegraphed the changes last October during a public hearing into the electoral structure of the shire.
He had expressed concern over the uncontested seats in 2008, revealing the shire had six of 45 in Victoria, 13.3 per cent of all uncontested wards across the state’s 79 municipalities.
During a vigorous lobbying campaign, the shire council, led by CEO Michael Kennedy with the full support of all 11 councillors, said the six uncontested seats were proof the single-councillor system was working.
Many residents disagreed, saying dislodging sitting councillors was a difficult task and getting action from existing councillors was sometimes a problem.
Despite 2008 having only five contests, four new councillors joined the shire – Frank Martin replaced David Jarman at Red Hill, Lynn Bowden replaced the retiring Aldona Martin in Watson Ward (Somerville and Tyabb areas), Graham Pittock replaced the retiring Dave Gregan in the Dromana area, and Leigh Eustace replaced Reade Smith, who moved from Mt Eliza Ward where he had been since the 2000 election.
Cr Smith, who announced many months ago he would not stand in 2012, contested the Hastings-based Cerberus Ward, vacated by Brian Stahl, who was first elected to the Shire of Hastings in 1987.
(Dave Gregan died at his home in Dromana on 13 October 2009 at age 73 after battling cancer. He was Kangerong Ward councillor for three years, but even after leaving the council fought for his community.)
The council election for 2012 will be conducted by postal voting.
The shire’s 144,733 voters (the third largest municipality in Victoria says the VEC) will have ballot packs mailed to them on 9-11 October. They must be returned by 6pm on Friday 26 October.
On Saturday 27 October, VEC computers will count the votes and preferences, and declare results.
If you do not receive a ballot pack and are sure you are on the voting roll or have any queries about the election, visit the VEC at Shop 2, 1391-1395 Point Nepean Rd, Rosebud, or call 5981 1339 during office hours. The returning officer for the election is Julie Allan.
A list of candidates is on the VEC website at: www.vec.vic.gov.au
Click on “2012 Council elections” and scroll down to the alphabetical list of municipalities.