City of Karratha Council calls on community feedback for review of wards system

Alexander ScottPilbara News
City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long.
Camera IconCity of Karratha Mayor Peter Long. Credit: Alexander Scott/Pilbara News/RegionalHUB

The City of Karratha is calling on public submission as part of a review into wards and the number of councillors which could see wards abolished.

Local councillors endorsed at the September 28 council meeting a motion to begin a six-week community consultation process as part of the review.

It comes as a series of local government reforms were announced by Local Government Minister John Carey on July 3, including the removal of wards from all tier 3 and 4 local governments.

The City of Karratha is a tier 1 local government, and not required to scrap the system, however, the council is required to undertake a review of its wards and the number of councillors at least every eight years.

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As part of the proposed reforms, the City would move to a publicly elected mayor and lose one representative on council.

An officer’s report stated the position of previous councils was to retain the status quo despite the imbalance between the wards.

The report stated this decision had always been met with resistance from the Local Government Advisory Board.

Currently there is a disproportionate representation of electors to council members across all wards. There is an overrepresentation at both the Dampier and Wickham wards, with Dampier having a councillor-elector ratio of 1:775 or a variation of 29.3 per cent, well above the recommended 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Wickham/Point Samson/Roebourne/Cossack/Pastoral ward, also known as the Eastern Corridor, has a ratio of 1:777 or a 29.1 per cent variation.

A discussion paper on the ward review submitted to council has six options, of which the only two viable options were to remove all wards or create a two ward system with 11 councillors.

The report stated that if the City removed all wards and dropped to nine councillors, the ideal councillor-elector ratio of 1:1340 would be maintained.

It stated that the no wards system would be suitable with either the current 11 councillors or the possible nine if reforms are introduced.

“The proposed representation suggests a maximum of nine councillors to comply with future legislative amendments, however, the representation will work for any number of councillors,” it stated.

According to the report, a two-ward system by combining the eastern corridor and Dampier wards into one would reach the required councillor-elector ratio.

“Advice from the LGAB indicates that the minister will not support this option because of the higher councillor representation despite meeting the current legislative framework,” the report stated.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the review had to be conducted every eight years.

“I know the councillors who are in our Dampier and Wickham wards feel that if there was no wards at all, they wouldn’t get on to council because no one knows them, the majority of the people live in Karratha,” he said.

“And so they wouldn’t have any representation at all.”

Mr Long said under the current guidelines the councillor to elector ratio deviation for each ward could not vary by more than 10 per cent.

“We’ve actually considered maybe if we put all the non Karratha communities together, so Dampier, Wickham, Point Samson and Roebourne and the pastoral area that we could maybe make it to two,” he said.

Public submissions will be open for a period of six weeks and close at the end of November.

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