Why most Tenterfield residents won't vote in council election

Why most Tenterfield residents won't vote in council election

The majority of Tenterfield Shire residents will not have to vote come election day next month.

Four of the shire's five wards did not receive enough nominations to require an election, which means six councillors will be automatically elected without a vote.

Among them are mayor Peter Petty and Tim Bonner in A Ward, John Macnish and Bronwyn Petrie in B Ward, veteran councillor Tom Peters in C Ward and deputy mayor Greg Sauer in E Ward.

Two councillors are elected for each ward, so the only election will be in D Ward where there are four candidates: Kim Rhodes, Peter Murphy, Donald Forbes and Giana Saccron.

It will leave two wards - C and E - with only one councillor.

A spokesperson from the council told the Tenterfield Star that once the eight elected councillors are sworn in, in January, they would then decide what to do with the vacancies.

The council could decide to govern with only one councillor in those wards, or they could hold a byelection to fill both vacancies.

A spokesman from the NSW Electoral Commission told the Star the council would have three months after the election to hold byelections to fill such vacancies.

While most neighbouring councils have done away with wards, Tenterfield still elects two councillors to represent each area within the shire, which is split into five wards.

Twice over the last decade councillors have discussed abolishing the ward system.

In March 2012, then mayor Toby Smith was supportive of all residents electing the entire council.

"It is my belief that Tenterfield cannot continue with 10 councillors when you consider that Glen Innes [Severn Council] has only seven councillors and the Southern Downs [Regional] Council which is a lot bigger than Tenterfield has nine councillors," then Cr Smith said at the time.

Current mayor Peter Petty, who was deputy mayor back then, favoured keeping the system.

The matter was raised again in 2015 when Cr Don Forbes tabled a plan to 'dispense' the system. By this stage Cr Petty was mayor and this time he also favoured abolishing the wards. But the voters didn't.

When the shire went to the polls five years ago to elect the current council, a referendum saw 56.58 per cent of voters support keeing the ward system.