Council ward saga

The Adelaide Hills Council’s two ward decision is an interesting outcome that may satisfy very few people outside the council chamber.
The move, which combines the Marble Hill, Manoah and Mt Lofty wards into one and the more rural Onkaparinga Valley and Torrens Valley wards into another, was deemed a compromise by some councillors.
But the latest round of community consultation suggests it’s viewed as anything but a compromise by most interested community members, with 76.6% of responders opposing the move.
Councillors may have suggested the two- ward compromise in good faith, hoping it would satisfy the concerns of the five-ward advocates, while also providing some of the benefits associated with no wards.
But months of arguing and back-flipping over the council’s future structure left it with a very tight deadline, meaning the subsequent two-ward proposal became a do-or-die, last ditch attempt at satisfying both sides of the debate.
It was never anyone’s preferred option.
Had the compromise been met with community support it would have been an easy way forward that may have finally united both the community and elected members.
But when the community rejected that attempt at balance, it left the council with little option but to proceed with the unpopular proposal or risk placing the decision into the hands of the Electoral Commissioner, accompanied by a $2500 fine.
As a result, after a year of toing and froing, the council has landed on a final outcome that fails to really satisfy the concerns of either side.
It’s an unfortunate end to a year-long saga that has very likely damaged trust in both the council and the community engagement process.
Time will tell whether the two ward proposal will eventually be accepted by the community as providing both the security and choice that some councillors predict it will.
If it doesn’t, the decision can no doubt be reversed by the next council.
But it may take longer to rebuild the trust that has been lost through the process – and for what gain?
A compromise that disengaged many and satisfied few.