Local government matters

OPINION

Latrobe Valley voters have less interest in their local council than any other tier of government.

Electoral data reveals just 73 per cent of people enrolled to vote in the 2012 Latrobe City Council election, voted.

More than 1300 of those votes were classed as informal - the ballot paper not filled in correctly - and could not be counted towards the final result.

Last year's voter turnout percentage was the lowest of the past three Latrobe City elections, with the 2008 and 2005 elections each recording a turnout of more than 77 per cent.

The figures sit in stark contrast to federal and state election turnouts.

In the 2010 federal election both the seats of Gippsland and McMillan saw 94 per cent voter participation, while the state election saw a more than 93 per cent turnout for the Morwell and Narracan seats.

Valley residents aren't unique in their apathy when it comes to local government - election results for other regional cities portray similarly low levels of voter turnout.

But this does not make the figures any less alarming.

Latrobe City Council runs and maintains our libraries, leisure centres, town roads, sporting grounds, public toilets, landfill, pound, gallery and performing arts centre.

It decides what type of buildings go where, runs community development programs and advocates for the region in seeking funding from the state and federal governments for major projects.

Don't residents of the Latrobe Valley want to ensure they have a say about who represents them on these matters?

Low voter participation is not the only concern, however.

Earlier this year, the Moe revitalisation issue revealed a concerning level of voter apathy relating to how thoroughly the candidates were examined prior to the election.

A move by West Ward councillors Peter Gibbons and Sharon Gibson to conduct a review into the already-approved plan to revitalise Moe's railway precinct was met with strong opposition by thousands of Moe and district residents.

The councillors had voiced their concerns with aspects of the project quite publicly prior to the election, and in Cr Gibbons' case, in his candidate statement which was circulated to residents with the ballot paper for the 2012 election.

Crs Gibbons and Gibson were elected despite openly opposing a project a large proportion of the community evidently supported.

Council elections won't be held again until 2016.

Residents have three years to get to know their sitting councillors and whether they will choose to vote for them.

It is in this spirit The Express launches a new series which gives readers a public way to hold their councillors to account.

We will put reader questions on local issues to the councillors and get each of their individual responses, to give voters a greater understanding of their councillors' views on particular topics.

Some Latrobe City councillors have declined to take part in the series; they are councillors Sandy Kam, Sharon Gibson, Michael Rossiter and Darrell White.

The Express looks forward to your questions.

Do you have a question for your councillors? Send them to news@lvexpress.com.au 

The editor reserves the right to choose which questions are chosen for print. Unfortunately it will not be possible to publish all questions received. If you would like to put a question directly to Latrobe City Council, visit www.latrobe.vic.gov.au

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