A SURVEY commissioned by Bathurst Regional Council has revealed strong support among residents for a popularly-elected mayor.
Micromex Research conducted the phone survey over three days in March, including 213 interviews across all age groups and evenly divided between men and women.
A report by general manager David Sherley to Wednesday night's council meeting states that 71 per cent of respondents indicated they supported giving the public the chance to directly elect the mayor, while that figure dropped to 57 per cent after the respondents were given extra details about the process and cost of a direct election.
Mr Sherley's report stresses that the small sample size of respondents provides a margin of error of up to 6.7 per cent, meaning the actual level of support in the community for a popularly-elected mayor might be anywhere from 64-78 per cent.
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Councillors held a working party in May to discuss their views on a popularly-elected mayor and Wednesday night's meeting will give them the chance to choose their next step.
Currently, the mayor is elected by the nine councillors for a two-year term, with the next mayoral election due in September.
To change how the mayor is elected council would first need to hold a constitutional referendum asking all voters for their views.
That could be done in conjunction with the full council elections in September 2020 and the result would be binding.
If a referendum was held and it was a positive result, the public's first chance to directly elect the mayor would come at the 2024 council elections.
Tell us what you think ...
Mr Sherley said councillors now had two options:
- To note the report and take no further action.
- To further explore the proposal for changing the method of electing the mayor, with a report to come back to council on the proposed wording of the referendum question.
The NSW Electoral Commission advises that running a mayoral election in conjunction with a council election adds about 10 per cent to the overall cost of the poll.
Council estimates a local government election costs Bathurst ratepayers about $280,000 so a mayoral election could be expected to cost $28,000 on top of that.
Currently, 33 of the 128 local government areas across NSW directly elect their mayor.
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