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October 1, 2014
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Our guide to the Council election

What's the difference between a Ward Councillor and an Area Councillor? What does the Lord Mayor do? For that matter, what does the Council even do? And why should you care? CityMag demystifies the mechanics of Council ahead of the election.

  • Words: Brendan Cooper
  • Picture: Josie Withers

You should care because it matters.

The elected body of the Adelaide City Council is quite important to the workings of Adelaide, but it seems that few people (not including this writer) know how it words, and what its role actually means for the city. In 1999, an Act was established to outline the role of the council and its members. Unfortunately as with all Acts and similar papers, the documents are long and arduous, and barely anybody has time for that. Well, we made time, so here at CityMag we feel it’s time to end the confusion.

What does the Adelaide City Council do?

The Local Government system is one of the three levels of government in Australia – there’s local, state, and federal.

Essentially any Council’s core responsibilities are to provide facilities for their population and manage hazards in their area, as well as being environmentally responsible, supporting the development of business in the area and develop programs that are of benefit to their ratepayers.

Local Government has two distinct bodies – the Council, which is made up of elected members and an administrative arm made up of workers who carry out the decisions of Council. In the case of Adelaide City Council the elected body comprises a Lord Mayor, Area Councilors and Ward Councilors.

Who is on Council?

The Lord Mayor – is the only elected member who is paid the equivalent of a full time employee whilst on the Council. At the moment it’s Stephen Yarwood. He is the face of the people of Adelaide, tasked with taking time to meet people of the city and represent their interests in the Council chamber.

The Lord Mayor can’t vote on any issue unless a vote is hung but instead works by influencing decisions through their relationships with each member and steering the debate about the city through public statements. Each Lord Mayor has their own interests and opinions they are free to espouse while overseeing the city.

Deputy Lord Mayor – The Deputy Lord Mayor is a backup plan for the Lord Mayor; if for any reason our current Lord Mayor couldn’t fulfill a duty, our Deputy would step in. The Deputy Lord Mayor does not get elected by the public, but is instead an existing Councillor who is voted into the position by their fellow Councillors and only holds the position for a short time. Therefore, there are several Deputy Lord Mayors during any Council term.

Area Councilors – The “area” is the whole of the council’s jurisdiction, which in the case of Adelaide City Council comprises Adelaide and North Adelaide. At this election, four councilors will be elected from a pool of nine candidates and they will be expected to broadly represent the interests of everyone in the Council zone.

Ward Councilors – A ward is a subdivision of the Council “area”. The City of Adelaide consists of the Central, North and South wards.

North Ward is mostly made-up of North Adelaide. The two councilors to be elected from the list of six candidates for this ward are tasked with specifically representing the interests of the ratepayers in this area.

South Ward runs from Gouger Street to Greenhill Road, and there are eight candidates vying for the two places on Council that represent the interests of people in this area.

Central Ward is tucked between the two other wards and the ratepayers of this section of the city will choose three Councillors from a pool of eight candidates to speak for them on Council.

How does the election work?

Councillors are elected by the community in an election that’s held every four years.

If you enrolled before August 8, you can vote in the election in November (voting closes Friday the 7th).

It isn’t mandatory to vote, but by voting a local member in you can help to pick someone who may have similar interests and aims for your community as you do. Hell, if you want to be on your Local Council you can nominate for the next election – the Local Government Association (LGA) has information on how you can do so. Unfortunately for this term the nominations have closed, but you know for next time right?


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