Sunday, March 25, 2007

Darebin keeps lid on representation review

The City of Darebin has played down the current council representation review in its online and print communications with residents. This despite the fact that the council and the community have a massive stake in the outcome, which will determine the future number of councillors and wards in the municipality.

Late last week, I received the March issue of Darebin News in the mail. Despite a message from the Mayor, councillor Marlene Kairouz, touting the council's efforts to consult with residents, and a 'dates for your diary' page stretching through to October, twenty full-colour A4 pages contained not a single mention of the review.

Surprised by the newsletter, I searched the council's website and found only a single item about the review – a 9 March media release setting out Council's predictable quest to retain nine single-councillor wards occupied by nine ALP Labor Unity faction members. There was no link to the council submission [but it's been published by the VEC], or to the Victorian Electoral Commission's website for the review. Apart from that, there was no coverage of the issue I could find in Darebin's communications, even though the review will determine how residents are represented following the 2008 council elections.

If council can devote substantial resources to communicating with the community – from print newsletters, to the website and even podcasts – then it seems more than appropriate that the representation review, as a vital issue concerning all Darebin residents, should be covered in depth. When that doesn't happen, council is open to the accusation that it is seeking to play down the issue in an effort to protect the vested interests of its councillors, who would be challenged and quite possibly replaced if the review resulted in elections for multi-councillor wards in Darebin.

I can't wait for the April edition of Darebin News, which will no doubt land in my letter-box sometime around 24 April, the deadline for response submissions to the VEC's preliminary findings – judging by the March edition of Darebin's newsletter, it seems doubtful the review will receive much coverage as the last chance for public input quietly slips by.

Readers can keep track of the review at the Victorian Electoral Commission website, where they can also read all the preliminary submissions. The VEC's preliminary findings will be published on 3 April.

Watch this site for updates. Comments and questions are welcome here, or you can send me an email.

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