Constitutional Referendum on Councillor and Ward numbers
A Constitutional Referendum will be held on 4 September 2021 to determine the future number of Central Coast Councillors.
The referendum will ask Central Coast voters to determine the following question: ‘Do you favour a reduction in the number of Central Coast Councillors from fifteen to nine? This will result in three Wards with each Ward electing three Councillors.’
While there is no Council election taking place on the Central Coast this year, the date of the referendum aligns with other Local Government Elections being held across New South Wales. Voting in the referendum is compulsory for all Australian citizens over 18 who reside in the Central Coast Local Government Area.
The outcome of the referendum will be introduced at the following Council election, anticipated to be held late 2022.
For more information, please visit the frequently asked questions.
Proposed change to Councillor and Ward structure
Community members will be asked to vote on whether they feel the current structure of 15 Councillors should be reduced to nine Councillors.
The reduction of Councillor numbers would also require the reduction of Wards in the Central Coast Local Government from five to three, with each Ward to be represented by three Councillors.
The Central Coast Local Government area is currently divided into five wards (The Entrance, Wyong, Budgewoi, Gosford West and Gosford East) with 15 councillors. Each ward is represented by three councillors.
If the referendum is carried, a proposed ward boundary plan will be placed on public exhibition for community feedback so that new ward boundaries can be determined.
Councillor roles and responsibilities
Councillors are the governing body of a council, similar to how a Board of Directors is the governing body of a private corporation. Councillors elect the Mayor.
Councillors are expected to represent the views of the whole community (key stakeholders) while making decisions in their interests, demonstrate conduct that the community expects and deserves, and plan and oversee the running of a significant and complex business of Council.
One of the most important roles of a councillor is to participate in policy decision-making on behalf of the community. Councillors ideally work as a team to make decisions and policies that guide the activities of the council. Policies can be defined as the principles and intent behind the programs that a council implements.
Voting in the referendum
Voting in the Constitutional Referendum is compulsory for all Central Coast residents aged 18 years or older. If you do not vote, you may receive a penalty notice from the NSW Electoral Commission. You can enrol to vote, update your enrolment details and check your enrolment status on the NSW Electoral Commission website.
Yes, voting is compulsory.
If you are an Australian citizen aged 18 years or more and reside in the Central Coast Local Government Area you are required to enrol and vote in Central Coast local government elections, by-elections and any constitutional referendums. If you do not vote, you may receive a penalty notice from the NSW Electoral Commission.
You can register to vote and keep your details up to date though the NSW Electoral Commission website.
If you are not a resident of the Central Coast, you may still be entitled to vote at upcoming Local Government Elections (including referendums) and be placed on the non-residential roll, provided you are an Australian Citizen and you own, occupy or lease a rateable property (where the property is not your primary residence). Registration is not compulsory for non-residential voters.
Further details on non-residential voting will be available soon.
In accordance with the Local Government Act 1993, the number of Councillors can only be changed through a Constitutional Referendum.
At the Ordinary Council Meeting on 11 May 2021, Council resolved to hold a Constitutional Referendum on 4 September 2021 for voters to determine whether they favour a reduction in the number of Central Coast Councillors from fifteen to nine.
The referendum will take place on 4 September 2021. If the referendum is carried, the change to the Council structure will be enacted at the following Central Coast Council election, which is expected to be held in late 2022 following the end of the Public Inquiry process.
If the referendum is carried, section 210A of the Local Government Act 1993 applies.
This states that before altering a council’s ward boundaries, the council must:
- consult the Electoral Commissioner and the Australian Statistician to ensure the proposed boundaries of its wards correspond to the boundaries of appropriate districts and census districts
- prepare and publicly exhibit a plan detailing the proposed division or alteration (the ward boundary plan).
If the referendum is carried, Central Coast Council will develop a proposed ward boundary plan, making sure there is less than a 10% variation in voters between each Ward. This will be placed on public exhibition so that community members and stakeholders can submit feedback on the proposed plan.
All submissions made throughout the public exhibition period will be considered by Council when determining the new ward structure.
For more information on electoral boundaries go to NSW Electoral Commission’s website.
Earlier this year, Council undertook community consultation asking community members to vote on their preferred option from three scenarios:
- Maintain the existing 5 wards and 15 Councillors
- Reduce the number of wards to 3 wards and 9 Councillors
- Abolish wards resulting in 1 region and 9 councillors
This provided an opportunity for the community to submit feedback on the proposed options and allowed Council to better understand community sentiment on how the numbers may be reduced in order to finalise the proposed referendum question.
613 community members voted in an online poll between 1 and 15 March 2021. When asked if they would like Councillors reduced from 15 to 9, 78 percent voted ‘yes’.
Those who selected ‘yes’ to a reduction in Councillors were then asked to let us know their preferences for Ward structure. 45 percent preferred reducing the number of Wards from 5 to 3, while 55 percent voted to abolish the Wards and have 9 Councillors represent the whole Central Coast.
The results of this poll were used to finalise the referendum question.
On 26 April 2021, the NSW Government announced a Public Inquiry into Central Coast Council's financial situation. All Central Coast Councillors will remain suspended during the public inquiry process.
The decision to hold a public inquiry means that the local government election scheduled for the Central Coast in September will now need to be postponed until late 2022.