Local, Politics

Minister of Local Government can postpone NSW Council elections for one year – meetings may be held via video link

Urgent amendments to the Local Govt Act will give the Minister for Local Government the power to postpone the September council elections for 12 months, with a possible further extension to 31 December 2021.

A CHCC meeting. Photo; Trevor Veale – The Coffs Coast Advocate.
The NSW Parliament last night passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 comprising a broad range of amendments to existing laws to help combat the spread of the virus.   

The Bill amends the Local Government Act to allow councils to hold official meetings electronically instead of physically.
 
Virtual meetings will allow councils to continue to function and make decisions on behalf of their local communities while helping to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
 
Under previous legislation, councillors had to be physically present at meetings and residents allowed to attend in person to watch them deliberate and make important decisions on behalf of the community.
 
For the next six months, these attendance requirements will be satisfied if council meetings are held remotely using audio visual links such as Skype. If that method is not available, council meetings will be able to be held in any other manner approved by the Minister.
 
To ensure meetings are open to the public, councils will be required to webcast their meetings. All councils have been required to webcast their meetings since 14 December 2019 under existing requirements.
 
Use of electronic meetings can be extended to 12 months if required.
 
The Bill also provides the power for the Minister to postpone the local government elections for 12 months, with a possible further extension to 31 December 2021, should the need arise. This is a time limited power that will automatically expire after 12 months.  

Largely based on an OLG Press Release – Wednesday 25 March 2020. See; http://info.olg.nsw.gov.au/pub/pubType/EO/pubID/zzzz5e79e908a113b257/interface.html

7 Comments

  1. Prarire Rose

    Well if you are going to do that Minister then also legislate that from now until the next election all tied votes remain as the status quo – otherwise it is 100% unconscionable – irrespective of what the issue is.

    It might well be time to hit the Minister and the Premier’s email inbox ‘big-time’ on this one folk!

    Makes me feel like this; https://twitter.com/i/status/1242407157376512001

  2. Richard McDermott

    The Mayor must give a solid vow to the people of Coffs Harbour that she will not use her second vote for the next 18 months in order to advance any project that is blocked 4 to 4 in council.

    This must be done in public so all ratepayers know this will be her position. We cannot go another 18 months with non democratic local government making decision that the vast majority of the city do not want. We can’t elect a ninth Councillor so the Mayor must give this guarantee or explain in public why she will not.

    • Don’t hold your breathe Richard. Neither fairness nor democracy feature in this mayor’s lexicon. Knight will see this as a godsend. Her golden opportunity to finally push her crazy project over the line.

      The only thing that will slow the progress of the Gordon Street proposal now is if the NSW planning minister rejects or delays the DA, or the 12 month extension to council’s term is legislated as a caretaker period, where decision-making is limited to core council business only.

    • Knight won’t give any assurance which will prevent her from ramming her plans through council, Richard. I’m confident that she’ll see this crisis as a blessing which will enable her to rush ahead, with greatly reduced opposition.

  3. Can not go that long with a tied Council. The Mayor should recuse herself.

  4. Rikki Bekker

    Just great. Not!

    Those two ‘piranhas of democracy’, our Mayor and our GM, will be licking their lips at the chance of giving the ‘coup de gras’ to what remains of people’s trust in our local government so they can frog march their Emerald Palace and associated ‘sweetheart deals’ all over us in my opinion.

    Irrespective of the perceived unconscionable behaviour of doing something like that at such a time of crisis.

    We need to be ever more vigilant and alert folk.

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