Local council elections will be postponed in NSW as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 126 councils were scheduled to hold elections in September to appoint councillors and in some cases, mayors.
However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, the elections will now be postponed for 12 months.
Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock confirmed the postponement in an email to City of Sydney chief executive Monica Barone on Wednesday.
“To provide certainty to councils, communities and potential candidates, the NSW government has made the decision to postpone the September local government elections in the face of the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Hancock said in the email seen by AAP.
“Local government elections are a vital part of the democratic process, ensuring local councils are accountable to their local communities.
“The decision to postpone them has not been taken lightly but is necessary to ensure the health and safety of voters, NSW Electoral Commission staff and election candidates.”
In a public statement issued on Wednesday, Ms Hancock said the state government had made the “regrettable decision” to postpone elections for 12 months.
In the email to Ms Barone, Ms Hancock said amendments to the Local Government Act allow for the postponement of elections for 12 months, with a possible further extension until the end of 2021.
The Electoral Commissioner also requested the postponement, she says.
“It is the government’s intention that these council elections will be held in September 2021.”
Councillors and popularly elected mayors will hold office until the rescheduled elections are held.
Local Government NSW, the state’s peak body for councils, welcomed the decision.
“In light of the minister’s decision to delay local elections because of the COVID-19 crisis, I know all elected councillors will continue to work across political boundaries to pull together for the public good,” LGNSW president Linda Scott said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Mayors and councillors are working hard to ensure good governance continues during the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to do so.”
Ms Scott expects that councillors and mayors asked to serve for an additional year will understand the need to provide stability and continuity.
However, she admitted a small number of elected leaders may need to stand down.
Australian Associated Press