NSW council elections LIVE updates: Clover Moore expected to extend City of Sydney mayoral reign as state’s residents head to the polls

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Moore ‘optimistic’ voters will extend her reign

By Matt O’Sullivan

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore expressed confidence earlier today that voters will extend her reign over Town Hall for another three years, securing her a fifth term in the top job.

Speaking at a polling station in Surry Hills, Cr Moore said she was “optimistic” about winning another term but insisted she was not taking “anything for granted” amid the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clover Moore arrives at Surry Hills Library in Sydney on Saturday.

Clover Moore arrives at Surry Hills Library in Sydney on Saturday.Credit:Brook Mitchell

“There’s a very positive feel about the day, and I’m feeling quite optimistic,” she said.

She planned to visit most of the 40 polling stations in the City of Sydney’s boundaries by the time voting closes at 6pm today.

In 2016, she romped home to win 58 per cent of the mayoral vote, which was a better outcome for her than four years earlier when she clinched 51 per cent.

If voters give her the keys to Town Hall again today, a three-year term will extend her time as Sydney lord mayor to 20 years (eight of which she served concurrently as Sydney MP).

Cr Moore said she was also hopeful that her team would gain a majority of the 10 council seats. In the last term, her team has had five council seats, including hers.

“I’m hopeful for a majority. It means that we can be assured that we can get on with a program of work that this community has really supported,” she said.

The lord mayor said it had been a challenging election because of the recent lockdown and the fact it was postponed due to the COVID-pandemic.

“It’s been such a hard election – it’s been postponed twice,” she said.

“And this time our volunteers are being told they can’t hand out [election material] at the polling booth, and that’s going against everything that’s ever happened at any other election.”

‘I’m hoping to beat her’: Independent candidate in battle for Town Hall

By Angus Thompson

As we’ve noted below, Clover Moore is fighting an all-women field of candidates to win a historic fifth term as the City of Sydney lord mayor.

Among the contenders is independent candidate Yvonne Weldon, who is the first Indigenous candidate for the top job.

Yvonne Weldon, the first Aboriginal-Australian candidate for Sydney lord mayor.

Yvonne Weldon, the first Aboriginal-Australian candidate for Sydney lord mayor.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Voters elect 10 councillors on the City of Sydney, including the mayor. All eyes are on whether Moore’s team will retain its voting majority on the council. The independent team led by Weldon could pick up at least one seat. Labor and Weldon’s team are preferencing each other.

“Nervous, definitely nervous,” Weldon said upon arriving at Glebe Town Hall at 8am to cast her vote and begin her final day on the hustings.

As the head of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and a board member of Domestic Violence NSW, Ms Weldon is a seasoned advocate, but she says vying for the city’s mayoralty has required campaigning on a different scale.

“But if you peel it back and go back to the core, it’s all about how we’re going to make a difference for each other,” she said.

Weldon was originally planning to run on incumbent independent Dr Kerryn Phelps’ ticket, who dropped out due to family reasons, but has since taken the top spot to campaign to become the City of Sydney’s first Aboriginal lord mayor.

“I’m hoping to beat her,” she said, referring to Sydney’s lord mayor of 17 years, Clove Moore, who’s hoping to add another three years to her reign.

“I’m hoping to change the composition of the council and the lack of representation.”

Weldon will be visiting every one of the city’s 41 polling booths today, advocating for a boost in social and affordable housing, a new idea to increase the inner city’s swimming spots, and make Sydney the world’s most pet-friendly city, among other policies.

Democracy sausages make a comeback

By Angus Thompson and Michaela Whitbourn

It’s been a long time between democracy sausages.

The last state and federal elections were in 2019. Today’s local government elections were slated to be held last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw the polls delayed for more than 12 months.

Today, the election day staple has made a comeback – at least at some polling stations.

A factory line of volunteers were working the barbies at Erskineville Public School earlier today.

Erskineville P&C president Kristy Barker said her team began setting up at 6am to deliver the first snag to voters at 8am. Bacon and egg rolls, as well as halloumi rolls, were also on the menu.

Then there’s the parents group’s famous homemade lemonade.

“You won’t get it anywhere else,” Ms Barker said, before showing off the second marquee with cakes, jams, Christmas hampers and crafts. “Our time during lockdown wasn’t wasted.”

Stanmore Public School was also boasting delectable rolls and baked treats, as were public schools in Balmain, Annandale and Forest Lodge.

Are democracy snags available at every polling station? It seems not, as Megan Gorrey foreshadowed in her election guide. The NSW Electoral Commission is responsible for what happens inside polling places or near entrances, but not elsewhere on school grounds or council premises.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said ahead of the polls: “We do urge community groups considering sausage sizzles and cake stalls to take an extra cautious approach this time.”

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Clover Moore seeks historic fifth term as City of Sydney lord mayor

By Matt O’Sullivan and Megan Gorrey

There’s a lot of colour and movement in this year’s local government elections, but it’s hard to go past the battle for Town Hall.

Clover Moore, probably the best-known mayor in the state, is fighting an all-women field of candidates to win a historic fifth term as the City of Sydney lord mayor.

Clover Moore outside Surry Hills Library on Saturday.

Clover Moore outside Surry Hills Library on Saturday.Credit:Brook Mitchell

She says the repeated delays and COVID-19 safety measures for volunteers and voters have made the outcome hard to predict.

“I’m just numb, to tell you the truth, because it’s been so challenging. It’s been such an odd election,” she says. “Goodness knows what the result is going to be.”

Romping to victory with almost 58 per cent of the votes in 2016 and 51 per cent in 2012, Moore is expected to extend her 17-year grip on power at the City of Sydney council to two decades when voters cast their ballots this weekend.

At stake is whether she retains her majority voting bloc on council. Another victory will also intensify debate about which member of her team the 76-year-old will choose as her successor.

As we’ve noted earlier in the blog, elections for 124 of the state’s 128 councils are in full swing today.

The polls were delayed by a year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that existing councillors extended their terms by a year. Councillors elected this year will serve a shortened, three-year term before ratepayers head to the polls in September 2024.

In addition to the election of councillors in each of the 124 local government areas, voters in 35 council areas will cast a mayoral ballot, including in the City of Sydney, Fairfield, Hunters Hill, Liverpool and Hornsby, where former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock is seeking another term as mayor.

Here are the women vying to be Sydney’s next lord mayor:

  • Clover Moore, who has been in the top job for 17 years. She is a former teacher and state MP who was elected to the city’s council in 2004. Moore, an independent, is seeking to extend her grip on power at Town Hall to two decades by running for a historic fifth term.
  • Labor’s Linda Scott, a former deputy mayor who has served on the City of Sydney council since 2012. For the past four years, she has been president of Local Government NSW, the organisation representing the state’s 128 local councils. She is also president of the Australian Local Government Association.
  • Independent candidate and Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon, who is the first Aboriginal Australian to run for lord mayor in the 179-year history of the City of Sydney council. She was endorsed by former councillor Kerryn Phelps, who bowed out of the race for personal reasons. Weldon has spent 20 years working and volunteering in roles linked to education, land rights, health, youth justice and domestic violence.
  • The Liberals’ Shauna Jarrett, a legal and governance consultant. She serves on the board of Sydney’s Australian Museum.
  • The NSW Greens’ Sylvie Ellsmore, a native title and environmental lawyer, researcher and community organiser who works as a policy coordinator at the Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney. A former Marrickville councillor and NSW Greens campaign coordinator, she worked for a decade as an Indigenous rights advocate.
  • Small Business Party founder Angela Vithoulkas, who was elected to the City of Sydney council as an independent in 2012. Her long-time business, Vivo Cafe, suffered during construction of Sydney’s light rail project and closed in 2018 after 18 years. She founded the Small Business Party four years ago.

Read more about the battle for Town Hall here.

More than 1 million vote early, but final results may take weeks

By Matt O’Sullivan

More than 22 per cent of eligible voters – or 1.053 million people – got in early and cast their ballot for this year’s council elections before today.

A further 290,827 people – or more than 6 per cent of eligible voters – have made postal vote applications, while nearly 9 per cent of people will avoid the lines at polling stations today by casting their vote online or over the phone.

The deadline for postal votes to be received by the NSW Electoral Commission is December 17. That means the final makeup of councils – and in some cases, who controls them – will not be known until the week before Christmas.

Election day facts and figures

By Matt O’Sullivan and Megan Gorrey

More than a year late and twice postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the polls for 124 of the 128 councils across the state today are markedly different to elections in recent decades.

Hornsby Shire Council mayor Philip Ruddock.

Hornsby Shire Council mayor Philip Ruddock.Credit:Nick Moir

Voters are required to check in, wear a mask and practise social distancing at polling venues. They can also bring a pen.

New rules triggered by the pandemic mean campaign workers are banned from handing out how-to vote cards and other election material within 100 metres of polling stations and pre-poll venues.

All eligible election workers are required to be fully vaccinated.

In addition to the election of councillors in each of the 124 local government areas (LGAs), voters in 35 council areas will cast a mayoral ballot, including the City of Sydney, Fairfield, Hunters Hill, Liverpool and Hornsby, where former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock is seeking another term as mayor.

The 124 councils include several regional LGAs where elections are uncontested because they have just enough candidates to fill the council seats up for grabs. Councils with uncontested elections will have those unopposed candidates declared elected on election day after the polls close at 6pm.

Polls are not being held in four local government areas – including the Central Coast and Wingecarribee in the southern highlands – because the councils are in the hands of administrators.

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Your guide to today’s council elections

By Michaela Whitbourn and Megan Gorrey

Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of the long-awaited 2021 local government elections.

I’m Michaela Whitbourn and I’ll be keeping you informed of the latest news throughout the afternoon and evening.

As Megan Gorrey explains in this handy election day guide, nearly five million voters in NSW are heading to the polls to decide their preferred councillors and mayors in 124 of the state’s 128 councils.

If you haven’t voted already, now is the time: in-person polling booths at schools, town halls, community centres and churches across the state close at 6pm. Voting is compulsory and those who don’t vote face a $55 fine.

Most residents are voting for new councillors, but voters in 35 local government areas – including the City of Sydney – will also vote for their preferred mayor.

Today’s elections have been a long time coming: the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the polls, which were originally expected to be held last year, being postponed twice. As a result of those delays, existing councillors served one year on top of their usual four-year term.

Councillors elected this year will serve a shortened, three-year term before ratepayers head to the polls again in September 2024.

NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock said the council elections were an opportunity for residents to choose the political leaders who would make critical decisions about their neighbourhoods and communities.

Mayors and councillors decide matters related to planning and development, roads and footpaths, parks and playing fields, libraries, environmental management, waste disposal, and community services.

“Exercising your democratic right to vote is an important responsibility,” Mrs Hancock said.

“The days of local government being just roads, rates and rubbish are long gone. Local councils employ more than 48,000 people and spend more than $12 billion a year on infrastructure, facilities and services.

“They manage assets worth $178 billion and maintain 168,000km of roads and 109,000ha of open space.

“That is why it is so important to know what your local candidates stand for and how they intend to make your local community a better place.”

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