Grievance Debate: Abolition of Adelaide Hills Council Wards


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:18): Last night, the Adelaide Hills Council met and undertook what was a disappointing, foolish and, I think, disgraceful decision to ignore for the third time the 95 per cent of respondents to community consultation who said that they want to retain wards in the Adelaide Hills Council area. Ninety-five per cent of what I understand to be in excess of 500 responses from the community opposed the abolition of wards. The Adelaide Hills Council—six of the 12 councillors and the mayor with his casting vote—have decided that they want to again go to report, so that the Adelaide Hills community's views will be ignored once again.

Ninety-five per cent out of more than 500 responses—this was after the Adelaide Hills community had been ignored twice previously when, again, in excess of 90 per cent of community consultation responses had been against the abolition of wards. On one of those occasions we were looking at in excess of 600 or 700 responses, more than 90 per cent of which were against the abolition of wards.

There are good reasons that people in those communities believed that wards should be retained, particularly people in those communities that are not part of that central area where so many of the voters in the Adelaide Hills Council are concentrated, in areas like Gumeracha and Kersbrook that were formerly part of a different council area. It was undertaken that those electors when their council merged and became part of the Adelaide Hills Council would retain local representation. They have been ignored. Hundreds of responses from those communities were ignored.

The fact is that six councillors have been listening to their communities. Six councillors have been supporting the decisions of their communities but, unfortunately, once again the majority on council—the six other councillors and the mayor—have ignored them. This is disappointing particularly because it undermines faith whenever the council is going to go to community consultation again. This is a matter on which I have spoken previously, as have the members for Kavel, Heysen, Bragg and Schubert. We have all spoken strongly against this council's desire.

Of course, when the council made this decision only a few months ago it went off to the Electoral Commission for action, and it turned out that they had made a technical mistake and had to go back to community consultation again. The shocking thing is that, that consultation having been undertaken with hundreds of responses having come in against the abolition of wards, we are told now that they are going to consult with the community again in the coming weeks before the council will make a final decision that will go to the Electoral Commission for final approval.

I make this call: I asked questions of the Minister for Local Government about this the last time the council decided to abolish the words. I asked him if he would use his considerable powers to intervene. He gave a noncommittal answer, suggesting that he was not aware of the issue. I call on the Minister for Local Government now to look at what powers he can use to make sure that the considerations, the wishes and the demands of the overwhelming majority of the community in the Adelaide Hills Council area, are taken seriously.

There is another step that can be taken, and this is an opportunity for all members of the Adelaide Hills community. There are a number of people on Facebook already who are expressing their anger and their concern. There are Facebook groups expressing anger and concern, from the Morialta Residents' Association to the other coalitions having their voices heard on Facebook, but they can also have their voices heard by going directly to those councillors.

All those councillors who claim that they are representing their community's interest, I do not think they are doing that, but the members of those communities have an opportunity to have their voices heard. Contact their councillors directly. I would encourage all residents in the Adelaide Hills community to contact those councillors directly to make them understand, before this comes to a final vote in either two weeks' time or four weeks' time when the report from council staff, which they have been instructed to prepare, comes through, and to make their voices heard.

I know that some of the member for Newland's electorate contains a bit of the northern part of the Adelaide Hills. In fact, I note that he did make some representations to the council himself, and that is to be applauded. It would have been easy for him to go down the road from his house in Bridgewater to get to the Adelaide Hills Council and make those representations, but he can make his voice heard. Of course, the member for Waite is a resident in the Heysen electorate and he can make his voice heard. I encourage them all to do that, as I encourage all members of the community.

I know that all the Liberal members who represent these areas and who continue to live and be part of these communities will make their voices heard. I have discussed this issue with the mayor. I have discussed this issue with councillors. I am very disappointed that they continue to ignore the wishes of the majority of the electors in their areas, and I urge all community members to contact those councillors and urge them to overturn their decision from last night.

The Hon. T.R. Kenyon interjecting:

Mr GARDNER: There is one more chance, member for Newland. I can inform you that there is one more chance for councillors to reverse their decision, and I urge councillors to do so.