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Feb 26, 2019 - Cassowary Coast to stay with divisions after region-wide survey

A survey of residents of the Cassowary Coast Region on whether the Council should continue with divisional representation or change to an undivided council has returned an emphatic response to stay with the status quo of six divisions.

Cassowary Coast residents packed the gallery at a Special Meeting of Council today in the Board Room at the Innisfail Shire Hall to hear the results of an informal brochure survey and a detailed report from Cairns-based Compass Research on the results of its telephone survey of residents across the region.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s Acting Executive Manager Ross Higgins reported that considerable media and online coverage had been used to gather the widest and most accurate feedback possible within the tight time frame.

The telephone survey of a random sample of 605 residents (100 residents in each of the six divisions) showed that 75% of people were in favour of staying with divisions and 25% were in favour of moving to an undivided representation.

A total of 1827 information/feedback brochures made available through Council’s libraries and Customer Service Centres were returned and showed that about 94% of residents (1719) were in favour of remaining with divided/divisional representation, 67 people preferred undivided/non-divisional representation and 41 were undecided.

Mr Higgins said both surveys indicated that it was difficult to engage younger people and this was information that council would be able to use as part of future communication strategies.

Mayor John Kremastos said Council resolved to ask the public for its opinion on the matter rather than raising it directly with the Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs when it was realised that the boundaries of Division 3 would need to be reviewed before the March 2020 local government elections as it had exceeded its electoral quota.

“The whole of Council did not have a preconceived opinion on this matter,” Cr Kremastos said.

Cr Wayne Kimberley said the survey had highlighted a future inequity in the numbers in Division 6 as well.

“It has opened a lot of healthy debate amongst the community with a lot of suggestions, including having multiple councillors per division,” Cr Kimberley said.

Cr Jeff Baines said asking the community’s opinion was integral to how local government worked.

Cr Ben Heath said it was interesting that the survey showed the areas in the north of the region, Divisions 4, 5 and 6, were strongest in the undivided preference.

“Basically, the public has spoken,” Cr Heath said.

Cr Rick Taylor said he was not surprised that the bulk of the brochure feedback forms had been submitted by Tully residents as there had been a lot of discussion in the community.

Cr Glenn Raleigh said he believed the survey was an example of democracy in action.

“I congratulate the people of the Cassowary Coast for their participation in this survey and look forward to many more expressing their thoughts as to how they believe we as ‘Cassowarians’ should proceed in the future,” Cr Raleigh said.

Cr Mark Nolan congratulated Mr Higgins on arranging the survey in limited time.

“He only had his slippers under the table for a week before we said, ‘Go out and do this survey for us’. The residents have had an opportunity to speak. We listened,” Cr Nolan said.

Councillors voted unanimously to remain with the current arrangement of six divisions and instructed the Chief Executive Officer to advise the Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs and the Electoral Commission of Queensland to undertake a review of the divisional boundaries due to Division 3 being out of quota with the reasonable proportion of electors as required by the Local Government Act.