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April 16, 2020

What’s at stake in the city council supplementary election?

Ahead of the Adelaide city council's supplementary election next week, InDaily reporter Stephanie Richards has given us a primer on the current layout of the council and how things may change with the addition of a new member.

  • Words: Stephanie Richards
  • Pictures: Supplied

A battle is underway for former central ward councillor Houssam Abiad’s empty seat at Town Hall, after the prominent city politician resigned from the council in January.

Eight candidates have nominated for the central ward seat: Stuart Whiting, Wayne Chao, Greg Mackie, Gareth Lewis, Doha Khan, Nathan Paine, Darren Gitsham and Malwina Wyra.

The polls open on Tuesday, 21 April and close at midday on Monday, 11 May.

The elected newcomer will effectively act as powerbroker on the council – choosing to either side with one of the two main voting blocs or remain independent.

Siding with the dominant Team Adelaide faction would cement the bloc’s power in the chamber, raising their head count to six.

Joining the opposing faction – the ‘So-Called Independents’, as we’ve chosen to name them – would create a deadlock between the two factions.

Whatever the result, there will not only be consequences for the political makeup of Town Hall, but for the future of the Adelaide CBD and its recovery into the post-COVID-19 future.

Ahead of polls opening this month, CityMag asked InDaily reporter Stephanie Richards for a primer on the current makeup of the council.


Team Adelaide

Members of the dominant voting bloc often describe themselves as “likeminded individuals who just want what’s best for Adelaide.” Comprising mostly first-time, business-oriented councillors, Team Adelaide has been labelled the conservative faction, but it has also fought for progressive action on homelessness and climate change.

Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde
This ambitious former Young Liberals state president was elected as the council’s youngest ever Deputy Lord Mayor last year. Alex is considered the heir-apparent Team Adelaide leader following Houssam’s resignation.


Area Councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh
Prominent anti-domestic-violence campaigner, Order of Australia Medal recipient and public servant, Arman was elected to the council with a passion for gender equality and a background in the construction industry.


Area Councillor Franz Knoll
Politics runs in the family for Franz, whose son Stephan is South Australia’s Planning, Transport and Local Government Minister. His family also owns popular food businesses Barossa Fine Foods and Angelakis Bros.


North Ward Councillor Mary Couros
So far this council term, Melbourne Street real estate agent Mary has focussed her attention on the long-vacant former Le Cornu site at 88 O’Connell Street and activating city streets through the council’s Splash initiative.


Central Ward Councillor Simon Hou
Simon was elected to the council promising to advocate for the city’s multicultural community. He has campaigned for safety improvements and upgrades to the Chinatown precinct, where he has strong ties to the local business community.



So-Called Independents

This motley bunch of councillors has ties to both the Liberal Party and Greens, but they all share one thing in common: a disdain for Team Adelaide. The group fought relentlessly against the Adelaide Football Club’s now-withdrawn bid to build on the Parklands, removing the council’s “gag order” on elected members and cutting back on the number of council meetings. They also desperately want an east-west separated bikeway.

Area Councillor Anne Moran
Outspoken and politically savvy, Anne has been a Town Hall icon over the past 25 years she’s served as councillor. One of Team Adelaide’s staunchest opponents, she is known for standing up for North Adelaide residents and never backing down from a fight. She is also a highly quotable media darling.


Area Councillor Robert Simms
This former Federal Greens senator has been a leading advocate for environmental responsibility and social equality on the council. He also loves a good pun.


North Ward Councillor Phil Martin
Retired journo and serial questioner, Phil Martin sniffs out secrecy like a dog with a bone. He fights for transparency, accountability and protecting North Adelaide from vested interests.


South Ward Councillor Helen Donovan
Helen is a cycling enthusiast with a very clear agenda on the council – improving bike infrastructure in the city. She is also a practicing psychologist and personal trainer.



Lone Wolf 

Central Ward Councillor Jessy Khera
A proudly independent councillor, art gallery owner and solicitor, Jessy has managed to stay clear of the factional infighting so far this term. He loves fireworks, hates the “green left” and wants universities to pay council rates.



Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor

Despite campaigning with the Team Adelaide faction ahead of the 2018 election, Sandy has distanced herself from the voting bloc. She speaks passionately about sustainability, gender equality and reducing homelessness in the city.



Central Ward Newcomer

Whether this unknown newcomer decides to side with either of the two voting blocs, or join Jessy as an independent, the choice will have massive ramifications on the political makeup at Town Hall. Their vote could determine where the east-west bikeway will be located, what might finally happen to the old Le Cornu site and whether your rates will increase.

They will also play a critical role in Adelaide’s recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown, navigating – to lean on an already heavily worn phrase – this unprecedented moment in the city’s history.

To see how it all turns out, stay tuned to InDaily’s council coverage.

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