South Barwon’s coastal swap
VICTORIA’S major political parties have reaffirmed shifting Torquay to the electorate of Polwarth is “the best of a bad situation” but the fate of Barwon Heads remains unclear.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission last month released the transcript from the public hearings held in March with 23 representatives electing to speak during the two-day proceedings.
During previous written submissions political parties agreed Torquay and Jan Juc should be shifted to the electorate of Polwarth to reduce the number of voters in South Barwon, despite residents strongly disagreeing.
Secretary of the 3228 Residents Association Sue O’Shannassy said results from the current Distinctive Area and Landscape process should not be pre-empted.
“Our community is currently involved in the hearing of submissions to the distinctive areas and landscape process for the Surf Coast, and the outcome of that may well alter the future rates of growth in Torquay and Jan Juc, which currently is considered a growth node,” she said.
Prior to the hearing, the commission accepted 58 written submissions from political parties, community associations and individuals on recommendations for proposed changes to state boundaries.
Under the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act 1982, boundaries for state government seats must be adjusted every eight years to ensure each district has about the same number of voters.
Cameron Petrie from the Victorian Labor party spoke of his party’s proposal to redistribute 36 local government areas entirely into one district, which is an increase from 24.
“We agree with the Liberal and the National parties that Polwarth needs to be pushed east to take in some of that growth around the Geelong region, particularly around Torquay,” he said.
“We don’t believe that the number of electors in the Geelong region permit Torquay to be in a Geelong-based seat.
“Other numbers simply don’t work and if you look at South Barwon today, it’s one of the most over quota electorates.”
Despite similar proposals there was debate over splitting up Bellarine communities, with the Liberal Party proposing Barwon Heads be moved into South Barwon.
Liberal member Adam Wojtonis said shifting the district of Geelong to the west was necessary to better align with communities within suburban Geelong.
“Bellarine moving west as well, picks up those from established suburbs in the east of Geelong,” he said.
“This means that Polwarth can be created for Greater Surf Coast Shire and part of the Golden Plains Shire to reach a quota.”
Brian Coook from the Barwon Heads Association voiced his disapproval stating that the Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove communities often shared their emergency services and organisations and it would be inappropriate to split them up.
“It’s more than a numbers game, you also need to consider the implications of your decisions on local communities,” he said.
“There is no legislative need to redraw the boundaries of the Bellarine district.
“By 2030 it is expected that the Bellarine electoral district will be 9.3 per cent above the quota, and still less than the 10 per cent tolerance.”
National Party representative Matthew Harris called the Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast regions problematic during the hearing.
“Torquay geographically was the most obvious given its existing connections with the Great Ocean Road, most of which is within Polwarth already,” he said.
“It’s the best of a bad situation, I think is what we’ve tried to come up with.”
The Electoral Boundaries Commission is set to release the redivision of state boundaries draft on June 30. Stage two submissions will open following the release.