Candidates galore do battle
BALLINA Shire Council, along with Kyogle, is one of only two councils on the Northern Rivers to use a ward system for its councillors - three if you want to include Tenterfield, which blurs a little between its links to the Northern Rivers and the New England regions.
The shire has three wards: A Ward, which covers the town of Ballina, part of Cumbalum and South Ballina down to Patchs Beach; B Ward, which covers the northern part of the Shire, including Lennox Head, Tintenbar, Newrybar, Brooklet, Knockrow, and Fernleigh; and C Ward, which covers the shire's western region and southern end, taking in Alstonville, Wollongbar, Rous Mill, Wardell, and Cabbage Tree Island.
The key benefit of the ward system in this election is voters will have only 10 candidates to familiarise themselves with in A Ward, or seven in B and C wards, along with the six mayoral candidates. Compare that to the poor sods over the border in Lismore, where a fit of democratic enthusiasm has produced a field of 60 council candidates on top of the five mayoral candidates. Even getting to know the modest field of 29 council candidates and six mayoral candidates to the north in Byron Shire presents a Herculean task by comparison.
On the down side, it means residents of Ballina Shire are unable to vote for candidates they like if they are in a different ward.
There is a fairly lengthy list of pros and cons for the ward system used by Ballina, Kyogle, Tenterfield and another eight councils north of Sydney.
One of the chief benefits of the system is it is believed the smaller borders mean voters within a ward get more direct representation from their councillors, much as members of the state or Federal lower houses are supposed to directly represent the residents of their electorates.
Countering that is the concern the system can encourage a form of parochialism, pitching shire councillors against each other as they try to promote the interests of their wards over each other and over the interests of the shire as a whole - not that this seems to have been an issue for Ballina.
Voting in the Local Government elections on September 8 is compulsory.
Anyone on the electoral roll who fails to vote risks a $55 fine.
Absentee voting is not available for the Local Government elections; so you must present to your local polling booth to register a vote or do a pre-poll or postal vote before polling day.