BACKGROUND TO KURANDA’S NEED TO BE A DIVISION OF THE MAREEBA SHIRE COUNCIL TO ENABLE IT TO HAVE A COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE ON COUNCIL
Kuranda is a highly successful tourist town (Village in the Rainforest) in the Mareeba Shire. It is also in and adjacent to the WTWHA. We live on properties that carry the values of the WTWHA. We are acutely conscious of our environment and our several responsibilities in maintaining and enhancing it.
However, we are governed by the Mareeba Shire Council, in which we have no representation and which is entirely made up of Dry Tropics councillors. Decisions are made for us by our Dry Tropics masters on matters they have little knowledge of or interest in. Consequently, we are in regular conflict with Council regarding inappropriate decisions that affect us. MSC has described us as argumentative and contrary and we often feel frustrated and powerless. Kuranda is second only to Mareeba in population size in the shire.
We have no ability to vote in a representative from the Kuranda region of the undivided shire because we do not have a high enough population. Total support for one candidate from Kuranda will not win us a place on the council. All councillors are from the Mareeba area. Nevertheless, our fiscal contribution to the shire’s coffers is more than our share.
But there is a solution. If the Kuranda region was a division of the shire, it would ensure we had at least one representative. Ideally, we should have two representatives to represent the diversity of our local region. The Electoral Commission now has a department called The Local Government Change Commission (the Change Commission) to deal with requests such as ours. We see it as only fair and reasonable that we wish to elect a person from our own community to represent us on council.
Mayor Tom Gilmore acknowledges that Kuranda is not fairly represented and that this may be a solution that could rectify that. He has suggested that we present council with a petition of residents and ratepayers asking for its support of our application to the Electoral Commission to become a division of the shire. Of course, the number of petitioners will greatly influence the outcome.
Time is of the essence. Our petition needs to be presented to council as soon as possible so that we can then go to the Minister for Local Government who can refer it on to the Change Commission, all before the end of February 2019. If our request is agreed to, arrangements have to be put in place in time for the March 2020 elections.
Why the time is right now
The Kuranda region now has enough population to enable it to be a division. That is, for a shire with a population of around 22,311, Kuranda must have a population of about 3720. It does. The sum is Mareeba Shire population divided by the number of councillors (set by the State Government), i.e. 6.
Upon receipt of a proposal for a Local Government change, the Change Commission has responsibility for assessing whether the proposed change is in the public interest and consider:
- whether the proposed Local Government change is consistent with a Local Government Act
- the views of the Minister about the proposed Local Government change
- any other matters prescribed under a Regulation.