23 July 2023

Kiama residents to get a say on whether they want to directly elect future mayors

| Jen White
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Nine current Kiama Municipal Council representatives in 2022.

Residents will be asked if Kiama Council should allow the community to decide who should be mayor. Photo: Kiama Municipal Council.

Kiama residents and ratepayers will get to decide whether they want to directly elect their mayor, in a referendum to be held at next year’s local government elections.

Kiama Council is currently the only council in the region where the mayor is decided by incoming councillors at their first meeting after an election.

Wollongong, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega voters all directly elect their mayor.

At council’s latest meeting (Tuesday 18 July) councillors voted to hold the referendum at the same time as next year’s council elections in September, to reduce costs.

If successful, the first direct election of a mayor would be held at the local government elections in 2028.

Councillor Stuart Larkins, who proposed the move in a notice of motion in late June, told the meeting that a number of NSW councils were moving towards directly electing their mayors.

“Our council has been undertaking a number of important reforms, particularly at an organisational level, and I believe it’s important we have transparent and accountable political leadership from the mayor and councillors at election time and beyond,” Cr Larkins said.

“This is an opportunity for our community to self-determine its political future and fall into line with our neighbouring councils.”

READ ALSO Kiama Council creating an inclusive environment for all members of the community

Councillor’s Mark Croxford’s proposal to reduce the number of Kiama councillors from nine to seven, which would also require a referendum, was deferred until council meets again in August.

In late June, Cr Croxford lodged a notice of motion, which calls for the number of representatives to be reduced ahead of the 2028 election.

Members of the public can make submissions on both the mayoral plan and the proposal to reduce the number of councillors. Council has been advised by the Office of Local Government that Cr Croxford’s notice does not require exhibition, but will still accept public submissions.

Also at the meeting, councillors – with the exception of Cr Croxford – voted to support the Voice to Parliament.

The decision means council will support the Federal Government information campaign about the referendum and will also waive hall costs and fees for information sessions held by community groups and individuals related to the upcoming referendum.

The community can make a submission on the proposals to directly elect the mayor and on the move to reduce the number of council representatives by visiting the council website here.

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