Councillor Steve Procter asks if wards should be abolished and councillor numbers reduced

Cr Steve Procter.
Cr Steve Procter.

Maitland councillor Steve Procter has questioned whether the city’s ward structure should be abolished and the number of councillors reduced.

He raised the issue at the March 14 Maitland City Council meeting during a debate on the Maitland and Dungog councils merger decision.

In a report, council’s General Manager David Evans said council had been formally advised that the proposed merger would not be implemented.

The report included information from Dr Ian Tiley, who directed the formal merger inquiry process.

Dr Tiley assessed the merger proposal and offered several recommendations.

One said that a new council should have a popularly elected mayor and nine councillors who were elected from an undivided area.

Cr Procter said he raised the issue of ward changes and councillor numbers about three years ago.

“Maybe now with new technology and the fact that we now know where we are going, this would be something we should consider in the future?” he said. “Some consideration needs to be given in the near future to a restructure. Should we be made up of wards? What should the number of councillors be? The time has come where we should be looking at the size of Maitland City Council.”

Cr Arch Humphery said some of the council boundaries should also be reviewed. “Some of these boundaries are 100 years old. Beresfield is in Newcastle council, Hinton in Port Stephens and there’s one street in Greta that is divided between Maitland and Cessnock councils. It’s ridiculous. These issues need to be investigated by the boundaries commission,” he said.

Dr Tiley received written submissions from both councils in response to the merger proposal and conducted public hearings in Maitland and Dungog.

In his assessment Dr Tiley suggested the councils merge for a number of reasons. He said there would be financial advantages, both communities could be effectively represented and there would be minimal if any adverse impacts on employment.