Cut three councillors? Divide city and country? The options facing Murray Bridge voters

The Murray Bridge council is seeking feedback for a review of local representation.

Up to three seats on the Murray Bridge council could be abolished at the 2022 election under one of several reform options being considered.

The radical option of reducing the number of councillors from nine to six is one of several possibilities being explored as part of a review of representation in the district.

Doing so would save ratepayers $17,270 per councillor, at the present pay rate; but could also make the remaining councillors busier and less accessible to the public.

Alternatively, town and country residents could each get their own councillors; the district could be split into two or three wards; or the council could stick with the status quo.

Murray Bridge's nine councillors are currently elected from across the district, with one per 1625 voters – about an average number for a regional centre in South Australia.

The city's mayor is elected directly by the people on a separate ballot paper.

That process, too, is up for review – he or she could instead be chosen from among the other councillors if that is what ratepayers want.

Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman explained.

"A representation review gives council and our community the opportunity to examine its present structure, to plan and implement changes, if required," he said.

"The council has developed an options paper which examines the advantages and disadvantages of all options to allow our community to comment on their preference."

Let's take a look.

Option 1: Status quo

Under this option, residents from all parts of the Murray Bridge district choose from the same list of council candidates at election time, and nine councillors are chosen – see below.

Option 2: Split the district north-south

Two versions of this option were done up, with either six or eight councillors.

In either case, residents of Monarto, the east side and anywhere north of Adelaide Road – plus an oddly-shaped block cutting down around the old racecourse – would be in the north ward, while everyone else would be in the south ward – see below.

Option 3: Split the district east-west

Two versions of this option were drafted, with either six or eight councillors.

The ward boundary would run along the River Murray from Mypolonga to the old road bridge, then cut through to the hospital roundabout and follow Mulgundawah Road out to Brinkley.

People living east of that line would be in one ward, and those to the west would be in the other – see below.

Option 4: Split the district in three

Murray Bridge could end up with either six or nine councillors under this option.

But the contortions needed to divide the district into three wards, each with an equal population, are really something – see below.

Option 5: City and country

This option would divide the district into two wards: one for Murray Bridge's town centre and one for the rest of the district, including the east side and areas beyond the South Eastern Freeway.

It makes more logical sense, at first glance, than the previous option – see below.

But it may not be needed – the number of councillors living outside the town centre has already increased from two to four, then five, since the previous wards were abolished.

What do you think?

The council will take feedback on all the options, including mayoral voting, until July 31.

Councillors will then make a recommendation which will go out to a second round of public consultation in September and October.

A final version will go to the Electoral Commission of SA for approval ahead of the next council election, due in November 2022.

Images: Planning Futures/Rural City of Murray Bridge.