City of Wanneroo starts election process for new mayor, but will seek options from Minister of Local Government

The city of Wanneroo will write to the Minister of Local Government to see if the extraordinary mayoral elections can be postponed until next year.

It follows the official resignation of former Mayor Tracey Roberts on June 9 after she was elected to Pearce’s seat in the federal election.

Under the Local Government Act, the city must hold extraordinary elections for a new mayor within four months of Ms. Roberts’ resignation.

City officials had recommended that the council approve the WA Election Commission to hold the September 2 election using the traditional postal method.


While the council voted Tuesday night to initiate this process, Cr James Rowe asked the city to look at other options simultaneously.

With a mayoral election already scheduled for October next year, Cr Rowe asked the city to write to the minister to “consider exercising his powers” so that the city can leave the mayoral position vacant until then.

This would mean that the Deputy Mayor would remain in the mayor’s role until October 21, 2023, which is what Cr Brett Treby has been doing since Mrs. Roberts went on leave on April 13.

Cr Rowe said he knew the cost implications of potentially having two elections 12 months apart.

The WAEC has estimated it would cost $320,000 to hold an extraordinary mayoral election by mail.

The city’s last mayoral election, including seven alderman vacancies, cost $463,500.

Cr Glynis Parker said her biggest concern was the cost to taxpayers.

“We must do everything we can to postpone the elections until the regular elections next year. It should be our main concern,” she said.

“Writing to the Minister for his support and understanding to exercise his discretion is the least we should do.”

However, Cr Paul Miles said he doesn’t think the city should “leave our residents along with the Deputy Mayor” until October next year.

“I think our municipality is too big for that,” he said.


“The advice from the government in recent months has been very, very clear that there is no capacity within the law not to hold elections.

“This has only come about because of cost, and we are trying to scramble to make changes to help our residents and taxpayers.

“Last October, there were municipal elections, and the former mayor could have resigned, and that position could have been settled then, and it wasn’t, so now we have to weigh the costs.”

Cr Jordan Wright also believed it was “undemocratic” to postpone the election and continue with the Deputy Mayor in the role.

“Our position as a city was to have a publicly elected mayor, so why to change that one this time around,” he said.

However, Cr Jacqueline Huntley argued that councilors appointed a deputy mayor so that they could take over the mayor’s role if necessary.

“We are all elected, so when we elect a deputy mayor, that is our decision for that person to fill the role of mayor when they are not present,” she said.

“For the short time, this will happen, it makes perfect sense.”

Cr Treby said he was “lucky to get to an election as soon as possible” but that it was “up to us to save our taxpayers money and at the very least ask” to postpone it until October next year.

He said the city had previously left at least four vacant council positions pending the next election.

In September 2018, the council voted to leave Lara Simpkins’ council seat vacant until the October 2019 election. She had resigned because her family had left the area.

The same happened in April 2017 when Sabine Winton won Wanneroo’s seat in the state election ahead of the local government election six months later.

Camera Icon Former Mayor of Wanneroo and now Pearce MHR Tracey Roberts. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/Perth Now

However, suppose the city cannot postpone the election. In that case, CR Rowe’s amendment also asks the minister whether the new mayor’s term can end in the 2025 regular election rather than the scheduled mayoral election in 2023.

He said he was “concerned about the prospect of a mayor being elected and having only 12 months to run again.”

The request to postpone the election was passed 7-6, while the proposal to extend the successful candidate’s term to 2025 was passed 11-2.

Cr Wright also tried to table an amendment for the extraordinary election to be held on Saturday, September 3, in person rather than by mail, but it was defeated 5-8.

He said if cost-cutting was the biggest issue for councilors, in-person voting was the “easy choice,” with the WAEC estimating $80,000 rather than $320,000 for a postal vote.

“This is the best option for people to have their say still, and it won’t cost that much,” said Cr Wright.

‘We don’t have the money. This is not budgeted. We haven’t even allocated money for an election.”

However, Cr Natalie Sangalli expressed concern that there is only one polling station per ward, suggesting that when voting in person, residents of places such as Two Rocks and Alkimos should make a 20km round trip to Yanchep to vote rather than a journey of 2 km to a post box.

“When we talk about saving money for people, one of the highest living costs right now is the price of fuel,” she said.

Cr Sangalli also said Saturdays in September were a busy time for sports clubs, and these clubs were some of the city’s closest relations.

But Cr Wright argued that residents would still have the option to vote early or vote by mail if they couldn’t attend in person.

Cr Rowe also expressed concerns about changing the voting system “into an ad hoc single-election approach”, with the city voting by mail since 1999 and the risk of low turnout.

He said local governments that used in-person voting were mostly state or regional councils and had seen a voter turnout of less than 10 percent.

“I’m concerned if we see a voter turnout below 10 percent what that could mean for the perception of that elected mayor’s legitimacy,” said Cr Rowe.

According to a council report, the city’s last personal election in 1997 — before the split to create the town of Joondalup — had a turnout of just 6.5 percent, compared to 21.92 percent for the 2019 mayoral election.

The report also said that because voting in local government elections was not compulsory in WA, postal elections were considered “one of the most effective methods of encouraging greater voter participation.”

If the minister answers the city with options to postpone the election or extend the mayor’s term, a special council meeting is called to determine the next steps.

If the minister cannot change the law, the city will go to the postal elections on September 2.

John D.Mayne
I love to write. When I wasn’t writing for my school newspaper or college blog, I was writing personal essays and journal entries. Then I discovered I loved to write. In college, I wrote for my school paper and my campus radio show. I started doing freelance writing for the Huffington Post in 2009. Then, I joined the team at Newsmyth as a writer/editor. Now, I spend most of my time writing for Newsmyth and as a guest blogger on a handful of other blogs. When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, cook, and spend time with friends.