NSW Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, has announced the local government elections scheduled to take place on September 4 will be postponed to December 4.
Mrs Hancock said the decision had been made following extensive discussions with NSW Electoral Commission and NSW Health in relation to the COVID pandemic situation in Greater Sydney.
Mrs Hancock said the election date had been pushed back three months to December 4 for all NSW councils except the Central Council which was in the hands of an administrator.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current public health orders impacting Greater Sydney, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the local government elections until later this year," Mrs Hancock announced on Saturday (July 24).
"We have taken this step to postpone the election to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities, voters, polling staff and candidates."
Voters will be able to participate in the December elections in person, by post or online and pre-poll voting will begin two weeks before election day. Nominations, which had been due to open on Monday, July 26, will instead be postponed until October 25.
The NSW Government must commit to holding COVID safe NSW local government elections before year's end, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said in response.
"COVID safe local government elections must be held by the end of the year, to uphold democracy and ensure renewal," LGNSW president Linda Scott said.
"Public health and safety must always come first, but we do not want to reach a situation in which democracy delayed is democracy denied.
"This latest three-month deferral comes on top of an existing deferral of 12 months from September 2020, with no guarantee further delays won't be incurred.
"Delaying elections further is a risk to democracy."
Cr Scott said a significant number of existing councillors, who had already been asked to extend their term by 12 months, had already chosen not to stand for a further term.
"The need for local government leaders has never been greater, as communities and their local economies struggle with the impact caused by going into, out and back into lockdown again," she said.
"Local governments need energetic, dedicated local leaders as mayors and councillors.
"Regional NSW local governments are particularly eager for safe NSW elections to proceed, with many areas of NSW without a single COVID exposure.
"Why should the rest of NSW have to suffer because of COVID cases in Sydney?
"The NSW Government must publish the NSW health advice that underpins this decision.
"Delaying elections further is a risk that the strong candidates we need and deserve cannot dedicate the time and money required to continue their campaigns for a further three months."
Cr Scott said council elections took up to 12 months to organise, with the newly-announced rescheduling likely to burden councils with further resourcing and administrative costs.
"Unfortunately these additional costs will divert council funding from the hard work they are doing to drive a locally-led recovery, not just from the economic impacts of the pandemic but also the floods and bushfires that preceded it."
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