Shire of Broome moves to investigate abolishing two-ward system

Sam JonesBroome Advertiser
The Shire of Broome may abolish its current ward system.
Camera IconThe Shire of Broome may abolish its current ward system. Credit: Unknown

The Shire of Broome will investigate scrapping its two-ward system, which is used to reserve two of nine council positions to represent communities on the Dampier Peninsula.

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

Despite being a tier two local government, and therefore not required to scrap the system, councillors at the September 28 meeting unanimously endorsed a discussion paper on the two-ward system and moved to review boundaries and representation with the potential to scrap the system.

The discussion paper said there had been a continued decline in the number of electors in the Dampier ward, which has one councillor to every 558 electors, compared to one councillor to every 1010 electors in the Broome ward.

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The report said moving to a publicly elected president would drop the number of councillors in the Broome ward from seven to six, further exacerbating the differences in the councillor-elector ratio with the Shire President no longer alligned to any wards.

Dampier ward seats have traditionally been filled by just a handful of votes.

In 2021, Philip Matsumoto was re-elected to the Dampier ward seat with 109 votes, while Broome ward candidate Ellen Smith missed out on election despite garnering 967 votes.

Shire president Harold Tracey said scrapping the ward system had been in the sights of the shire before the State Government directive was announced.

“I think one of the things people get confused about is they think the people elected to certain wards only represent those wards, which isn’t really true; each councillor represents a pretty broad cross-section of communities in and around Broome,” he said.

Currently, 70 per cent of councils around WA operate without wards, with the reforms set to see the number jump to above 80 per cent.

In the past two years the City of Greater Geraldton, City of Rockingham, Shire of Narrogin, Shire of Bridgetown and the Town of Mosman Park have all abolished their ward systems.

The review follows a similar move in 2020, in which the Shire of Broome ultimately decided to make no changes to the ward system.

As part of the review, Broome residents will be invited to have their say on the issue during a six-week public submission period.

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