Ward decision

The Adelaide Hills Council finally seems to be moving forward with a decision about its future structure after months of division in the chamber.
But while the council and the community may be one step closer to a final outcome, the turbulence surrounding the process has clearly damaged both the council’s brand and, more importantly, the public’s faith in local government’s community consultation system.
We live in a political climate that has seen voters become increasingly frustrated with the inability of elected members at all levels of government to move past peripheral issues and get the real work done.
The council’s toing and froing about an issue that will arguably impact only a small percentage of the region’s population is unlikely to strengthen the community’s trust in politics.
The council has already lost the confidence of some of its electors who, unable to be convinced by the arguments of the no-ward councillors, felt their concerns had not been adequately listened to when the council pushed ahead with the no-ward option.
It’s yet to be seen whether the council’s decision to change to a two ward system will be considered by the public as an acceptable compromise or if it will emerge as a decision made by community leaders who simply couldn’t agree on any other solution.
Supporters of the two ward system claim it will secure representation for smaller northern farming communities, while also providing more choice to voters and encouraging greater participation in council elections.
Whether these predictions eventuate is yet to be seen.
What is also unknown is whether the two ward system is a stepping stone for councillors wanting to abolish all wards to do so at a future date; or whether residents who so strenuously opposed the abolition of wards will realise that removing the 20-year-old boundaries will actually have less negative impact than they feared.
What is certain, however, is that whatever the future outcome of a two ward structure, the council has a lot of work to do if it wants to restore the public’s faith in the local government political process.