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Haircut binned as Peterson bid to remove three councillors falls flat; Duffy blames "self-interest"

February 8, 2023

By David Fitzsimons

A bid to cut the number of Orange councillors from 12 to 9 found few friends this week.

The council chamber will keep 12 seats after a call to put the downsizing to a public vote as part of the next council election was defeated 8-3 at Tuesday night’s first meeting of 2023, with mayor Jason Hamling on leave.

Councillors cited the extra pressures it would place on their workload, the cost of running the public poll and how a growing city needed diversity in its council among their reasons for not supporting the move.

Councillor Glenn Floyd said the current model was working: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it."

Councillor Tammy Greenhalgh said councils needed diversity, and pondered what the chamber would look like if the final three councillors elected were not there.

“If we go back to the last election, from memory Jack [Evans] our youngest councillor, wouldn’t be here; we wouldn’t have Frances [Kinghorne] from our ratepayers association; and we wouldn’t have you Mr deputy mayor [Gerald Power], our first Indigenous councillor and deputy mayor,” she said.

“The contributions that you guys have brought to our council have been wonderful. It’s more important than ever to have a diverse and a good section of people from our community to sit on our council to make the decisions.”

Councillor Jack Evans said pointed to the expenditure required for a referendum and questioned what would happen if a lesser number model didn’t work.

“I don’t want to go and fork out the cash for a referendum on this matter, which we don’t know how much is going to cost anyway, and then get 10 years down the track as we continue to grow and go, 'Ooh we need three more, let’s have another referendum',” he said.

Any downsizing would impact the public, said councillor Jeff Whitton: “People don’t realise you are reducing their own voice in the chamber. We are the representation of those folk in the community. Twelve’s a good number. I’m fully supportive of keeping 12.

“We have three councillors, who are superb councillors, that wouldn’t be here, and we would be poorer for that.”

Councillor Mel McDonell said the workload was heavy with council, committee and public business to attend to.

“Given that Orange is a growing city. The workload of a councillor, as it is with 12 of us, is substantial. I think if we were to reduce the numbers we’re just going to increase the workload and [create] very little savings."


The reduction was proposed by former mayor Reg Kidd with the previous council deciding it was a matter for the current council to debate.

In an interview last week deputy mayor Gerald Power told The Orange News Examiner: “The amount of committees the 12 of us do now is just crazy. Reduce that down to nine - that is massive extra work, and you don’t get paid any extra money, it’s a flat rate. We get paid a pittance for the amount of work we do. And the mayor is already flat out.”

A gentleman having a haircut. Stock image.

Councillor Tony Mileto told the meeting he saw “no reason” to cut the number of councillors.

But the man behind the proposal to put a cut to residents, councillor Steve Peterson, said other councils “seem to manage with less councillors than us". He said the final decision should rest with the people.

On this point, councillor Frances Kinghorne agreed: "I don’t think it’s up to us, it should be up to the people to choose how many people they want representing them, so I’m happy to have a referendum on this."

Councillor Kevin Duffy said he would possibly support a reduction, but that a lot more information would be needed to be provided to the public.

As for being one of only three votes in 11 willing to explore the downsizing, he told The Orange News Examiner on Wednesday "always back self-interest", recalling a famous quote attributed to former NSW premier Jack Lang: ''Always back the horse named self-interest, son. It'll be the only one trying.''

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