Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Preliminary submission to Electoral Representation Review for the Boroondara City Council

This is an excerpt of my submission to the Preliminary submission to Boroondara City Council Electoral Representation Review conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC).

Matters relating to the number of councillors

The population within Boroondara is likely to further increase as more medium-density housing becoming available. I therefore believe that an increase in total councillors from ten to eleven or twelve is warranted to cater for future population growth within the council area.

Based in the figure of 121,000 voters among the 154,450 people in Boroondara, twelve councillors would have approximately 10,000 voters per each, a figure that is in accord of other metropolitan municipalities.

This figure would be equivalent to that for Glen Eira (10,701), greater than Stonnington (8,895) and less than Whitehorse (11,229).

I don’t believe that concerns expressed by the VEC regarding having an even number of councillors to a problem as the mayor could have a casting vote in the event a motion was supported by six councillors and opposed by the other six. In addition, the likelihood of such tied votes frequently occurring would be fairly low.

Matters relating to the electoral structure of the municipality

I believe that candidates elected by proportional representation to multi member wards would be more representative of voter’s choices. For example, 26 percent of voters in a ward with three candidates can elect a candidate, whereas in single member electorates 51 percent of votes are required after preferences. Proportional representation across multi-member wards throughout the Council area would therefore make it more likely that candidates with strong community support will be elected.

Multi-member electorates also give residents the opportunity to choose which of their ward councillors to interact with, and may provide more diversity of councillors (e.g. gender, ethnicity) to residents.

Single member electorates facilitate special interest groups (which may have significant financial resources) fielding several candidates and directing preferences to get their preferred candidate elected. Voters are often largely oblivious to such machinations and preference deals, so the allocation of their preference when voting may not reflect their intentions, largely due to lack of detailed information about candidates and a lack of understanding about the electoral process.

I believe the current ward boundaries in Boroondara are too small and not based on significant local demographics such as communities of interest. In addition, the largely arbitrary boundaries of the current small-area wards risk actually dividing local communities of interest. For example, many people within Boroondara would use and have views about Camberwell Junction and its infrastructure (such as public transport), yet the current ward boundaries place it within a single ward.

In addition, some of the current wards contain only small shopping centres while others contain larger ones that generate more traffic. I believe that larger wards encompassing greater diversity of facilities such as shopping centres, recreational facilities and public transport will provide better overall coverage of community interest in and concerns about these facilities.

The model I favour is four three-councillor wards with Camberwell Junction as the focal point. Each of these larger wards (North East, North West, South East and South West regions) would contain a mix of large and small shopping centres, numerous recreational facilities and a diversity of voters, ethnic groups and communities of interest. Camberwell Junction is a regional transport, shopping and services hub, so it is appropriate that all wards have an interest in its function, development and management.

Care should be taken to ensure that the South East area ward contains both the appropriate number of voters and area, as its outer boundary would be diagonal rather than rectangular. Alternatively, if this ward ended up smaller than the other three, its number of councillors could be reduced to from three to two.

While ordinal ward names may convenient, I suggest the following ward names would better reflect Council and community heritage. Information on the names was sourced from the Boroondara Council History of Ward Names.

North East: Cotham Maranoa

  • Maranoa takes it name from the native plants garden established by John Middleton Watson on land he bought in the early 1890's. He continued to buy land in the area most of which later became Beckett Park. He began to create gardens on one side with Australian and New Zealand indigenous species. Maranoa is derived from native words in Queensland, meaning flowing, alive or running (for a river)
  • Cotham was a settlement from the early 1850s, near Wellington Street east of Denmark Street where the two roads from the river crossings met. The roads then diverged and travelled to settlers along the river or along the Main Gippsland Road due east. It was soon overshadowed by the larger Village of Kew, also established in the 1850s just north along the road to Bulleen, later called High Street. The Main Gippsland Road was generally known as the White Horse Road after the hotel in the Box Hill district, but on the Kew side of Burke Road it retained its name as the Cotham-road, the road to Cotham.
North West: Studley Glenferrie
  • Studley is associated with John Hodgson, the Kew pioneer responsible for the establishment of the Studley Punt in the 1840s. The punt took traffic across the river into land, which was part of his squatting run known as Studley. The road to the punt where a bridge was later erected was known as the Studley Park Road.
  • Glenferrie was the name of Peter Ferrie's property on the Glenferrie Road/Toorak Road hill in the 1840's gave its name to the road that led to it. The name is also used for a railway station and for local businesses and a hotel.
South East: Lynden Maling
  • Lynden takes its name from the road and park through long time farming land generally known as Highfield. The first subdivision occurred after the First World War, through a property belonging to the Boyd family, and named after trees.
  • Maling Takes its name from the road beside the Canterbury Railway Station, which ran through a large property owned by the Logan family. The name was given to honour long term Councillor and three times Mayor John Butler Maling in 1899. The area is now recognised and protected by Council as an important tourist precinct.
South West: Gardiner
  • Gardiner takes its name from John Gardiner, the first white settler in the Boroondara parish. At the end of the 1830's John Gardiner lived close to the top outlet of the creek named for him, stretches of which had other names until the 1850's.
*** End of Submission ***

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