Residents speak up on divisional boundaries

IPSWICH City Council has received 450 responses during the first week of consultation on divisional boundaries for Ipswich's March 2020 local government elections.

Interim administrator Greg Chemello said all three responses: an Undivided council (councillors elected to represent the whole city); Divided, one councillor per division (eight to 12 divisions) or; Divided, two or three councillors per division (four to six divisions) were getting traction.

Mr Chemello launched a discussion paper at the start of the month offering three options on divisional boundaries for consideration, with each model resulting in a minimum of eight councillors and a maximum of 12 councillors being elected.

"We have had about 450 responses so far; an incredibly positive response from residents he said.

"All three models are receiving strong support at this stage."

Residents have until the end of the month to have their say on the delegation.

The council will hold a public information forum March 25, where elected representatives from other cities will speak about their experiences with each of the models and talk openly about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Responses from residents thus far indicate a want for broad-thinking candidates:

"It is important that future councillors have the background, intellect and capacity to immerse themselves in strategic decision making of a high order. It is a waste to have elected representatives obsessing about shopping trolleys, local parking issues and local issues.

"Council should have a community engagement framework that can accommodate these issues using staff and not councillors.

"The problems at Ipswich can partly be held at the foot of councillors who were unable to properly consider strategic issues and did not fully understand the role of local government.

"Councillors need to be able to work within a shared vision for the City of Ipswich and not devote their attentions to, in the scheme of things, petty local issues that can be better managed by staff."

Ipswich City Council interim administrator Greg Chemello with the Divisional Boundary Review Community Discussion Paper.
Ipswich City Council interim administrator Greg Chemello with the Divisional Boundary Review Community Discussion Paper. Rob Williams

As well as councillors with hyper-local knowledge, unique to their division:

"We need divisional representatives to ensure our local areas are properly serviced.

"In my experience, it has been beneficial to have a councillor in my area to raise important issues directly with and seek solutions; rather than having that become part of a wider group that will undoubtedly place less emphasis on my local needs.

"Local representatives covering my area have always been helpful in my 30 plus years as an Ipswich resident."

As well as called for an undivided model, so councillors are focused on the best interests of the community as a whole:

"An undivided model would go some way to stopping elected councillors from creating their own little enclaves which were one of the factors in the disgrace that was council previously.

"I want the model that is most likely to provide cohesion and representation of the city as a whole - i.e. where all councillors are obliged to be across the issues for the whole city not just those in a particular division, which has been the case in the past, even despite the fact that they were meant to be across all issues.

"I would like to see proper education of new councillors on their responsibilities.

"I see the fact that candidates would have to campaign across the whole city as a small price to pay for more cohesion and it would require that they prove they understand the needs of the whole city and not just those of their divisions."

"The discussion paper also talks about some of the perceived pros and cons of each model, so we encourage people to read through it and share with us which way they would prefer council to go," Mr Chemello said.

"We are incredibly grateful to the community for their views and advice - so many residents have taken the time to share their views, not just fill in the survey.

"Council should be in a position to release more details on the community info night - including the three speakers - next week."

The public information session will take place on Monday, March 25 at 6pm at the North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre.

For more information or to request a hard copy of the survey please email: shapeyourcouncil@ipswich.qld.gov.au or call 3810 6666.