Moorabool Shire Council - Civic Hub
"Fearless" by Anuradha Patel and Velislav Georgiev
On 10 July, Moorabool Shire Council held a community and candidate information session to encourage and inform anyone considering standing for local government on 27 October this year.
Being a local councillor isn’t always a popular and highly sought after elected position. In Moorabool, the workload is estimated to be about 20 hours a week. In return each councillor receives an allowance of approximately $25,000 per year plus some provision for childcare, a phone and computer – with the Mayor being paid significantly more in recognition of the additional demands of that role.
On the ground, the workload of individual councillors is often much greater. The hours are taxing and hostility from aggrieved community members can be a considerable problem.
Moorabool Shire is currently represented by 7 councillors, elected within a 4-ward system that divides the electorate into Central Moorabool, East Moorabool, West Moorabool and Woodlands.
Only a handful of community members attended the Shire’s candidate information session, with the majority originating in East Moorabool Ward, which includes Bacchus Marsh and surrounds. East Moorabool will have at least two women contesting this election: Margaret Wohlers-Scarff and Tonia Dudzik.
Sadly, there appeared to be no new candidates for West Moorabool and Woodlands at the information session and only one new candidate for Central Moorabool Ward: Ballan resident Brian Meadows.
Moorabool Shire Council - Ballan Office
This post focuses on the Central Moorabool Ward. The next post will cover the new and incumbent candidates in the East Moorabool Ward.
In Central Moorabool, Brian Meadows, a retired systems engineer, says he intends to run on a “back to basics and first things first” platform, which he interprets as safe roads and pavements, “keeping rates as low as they can be” and encouraging small business.
One of Many New Buildings on New Housing Estates - Hogans Road Ballan
Meadows believes that money shouldn’t be wasted and nominated the chessboard paving outside the Ballan Mechanics’ Institute as an example of waste. He looks to business and other private patrons to support the arts.
Mechanics' Institute Before the Streetworks
Mechanics' Institute After the Streetworks
"Moorabool Earth Totem" by Peter Blizzard
(chessboard paving between the sculpture in the foreground and benches behind)
Mr Meadows was not familiar with the specifics of Council’s existing policies and policy gaps, but said that he would be listening to the community to generate ideas and would be “available and accessible”. If elected, he plans to hold regular meetings where community members will be encouraged to come and chat.
Central Moorabool’s incumbent councillor, Philip Flack, says he is yet to decide whether he will stand for re-election.
Modern Local Government
Calls for a return to a focus on roads, pavements and rates are relatively common during local government elections, but they would seem to be at odds with the work of leading a contemporary shire or municipality.
Councils have a legislative mandate that obliges them to be concerned with society alongside their concern with dollar value and the provision of physical infrastructure for pedestrians and drivers.
The Act also requires Councils to undertaken social planning, provide a range of services, express community identity and they must have regard to social sustainability, quality of life issues, and equity in access to services.
Moorabool Shire Council operates within a Council Plan under the Local Government Act. The Plan places roads and footpaths and a reduction in reliance upon rates alongside other items. These other items include:
- financial planning
- advocating for better services and facilities
- water access
- children’s and family services
- community facilities
- community empowerment
- support for community projects
- an early years development hub for Wallace
- emergency management
- local prosperity
- local town planning
- managing water and energy consumption, and
- improving service delivery.
Moorabool Shire runs a budget of just under fifty million dollars and operates in a contemporary social and political environment. All of the 7 elected councillors need to be capable of addressing this broad mandate as intelligent, responsible but deeply open-minded decision makers. They represent a diverse urban and rural community and do so in a context where the majority of residents are young families – and young families have high service needs.
Room for More
There are no young people in our current councillor line-up and though the ages of our councillors are unknown, most are clearly over 50. There are no state-wide, age related statistics on local council members, but the relationship between the high workload borne by councillors and the relatively small financial reward means that standing for office is very difficult for anyone other than retirees.
We have no women in our current councillor line-up, although Moorabool has had some wonderful female councillors in the past. The same factors, high workload and low pay, deter women. The acrimony councillors often face from constituents is another major factor in women’s reluctance to run. It’s no surprise that at the State level, women make up less than 30% of Victorian councillors.
As the electoral office doesn’t open for candidate nominations until 20 September there is still plenty of time for new candidates to emerge. In the context of the candidatures of Margaret Wohlers-Scarff and Tonia Dudzik, the climate is building for diversity.
It would be wonderful to see some new candidates standing in the West Moorabool and Woodlands wards and more new candidates in Central Moorabool.
Campaign period - from now until voting closes
Nomination period - 20 September – noon 25 September
Ballot paper mail out - 9-11 October
Voting closes - 6pm 26 October