BIG SPLIT: SDRC proposes shift to divisional representation
The next Southern Downs Regional Council election could look very different for residents and councillors alike under a proposed move to divisional representation.
The alternative structure would see the Southern Downs local government area split into several zones by population, with a councillor then elected to represent that specific division on the broader regional council.
A letter from Deputy Premier Steven Miles was tabled at the ordinary council meeting on Wednesday, responding to questions about the possible change raised in previous correspondence with Mayor Vic Pennisi.
“It is acknowledged that undivided and divided council structures suit different local governments for different reasons and at different times of their growth,” the letter read.
“Ultimately, a decision on a divided or undivided structure is one for (the council) to propose, after consultation with its community.”
The letter further revealed the change would need to be recommended by SDRC with proven community support to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government.
Any proposal would then be put to the Change Commission for a determination before any final changes to SDRC’s divisional status.
SDRC CEO Dave Burges told councillors in Wednesday’s meeting the potential change would be discussed in a future workshop, as “time was on (the council’s side)” with the next election not until 2024.
Cr Pennisi said the idea was not a new one and would be driven by community feedback, stressing that even a divisional SDRC would remain a united board.
“Towards the end of the last term there was a bit of conversation, and my understanding was back then the State Government was going to consider introducing divisions,” Cr Pennisi said.
“Warwick Shire Council, prior to amalgamation, had divisional councillors. Rather than have 36 people all running for the same position, you end up having a smaller group of candidates who are wanting to be elected to support a particular division.
“If we consider that we were to go down this path, we would need some serious engagement with the community for their decision on this …(we) will be largely steered by the sentiment of the people.”