Numbers hand Labor ‘total’ control of city TRIUMPHANT: Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes will be joined by six Labor councillors in City Hall. It is believed to be the first council with an outright Labor majority since the 1970s. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Liberal councillor Brad Luke said his party had to accept the decision of voters to give ‘total’ control of the city to the ALP.
Incoming councillor John MacKenzie, left, said the Greens had “mixed feelings” about the council election result.
Independent Kath Elliott said she was “very pleased” to have been elected to Newcastle Council, along with three other members of her team.
TweetFacebookTHE FINAL makeup of Newcastle Council will include six Labor councillors in addition to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, delivering the party an iron grip on the balance of power at City Hall.
Labor securedan additional two seats on last term – in Wards 3and 4–in final results declared by the NSW Electoral Commission on Sunday.
The surprise result exceededeven bullish party expectations.According to the ALP, it will be the first council with an outright Labor majority since 1977, when Joy Cummings was Lord Mayor.
“Voters have overwhelmingly endorsed our vision for the city and our track record of delivery,” Cr Nelmes said.
Liberal party sources blamed the poor resulton both the state and federal governments being on the nose with voters, particularly over the issue of same-sex marriage.
“It was a massive factor,” one party member, who did not want to be identified, said.“A lot of people were literally asking how the councillors would vote on same-sex marriage.”
Kath Elliott’s independent team securedfour seats, with Ms Elliott and former NBN newsreader John Church joining are-electedAndrea Rufo and Allan Robinson on council’s ranks.
Ms Elliott said she was “pretty happy” with the result and pledged to approach each issue with an open mind.
“Because we’re independents, we want to work with anyone,” she said.
“We have the city’s interests at heart and that is our first priority.We’re not voting on party lines.
“We would hope that other councillors in the chamber would be voting on issues like us, not based on party politics being directed out of Sydney.”
Liberal representation was slashed from four councillors to one, with a returningBrad Luke the party’s sole voice on the new council.
The Greens lost one seat, with newcomerJohn Mackenzie admitting the verdict brought “mixed feelings”.
“We had a lot of ourhistorically highest votesbut it hasn’t translated to seats in council,” he said.
Cr Luke said his party had to accept the verdict handed down byvoters.
“Nuatali has absolute and total control of Newcastle Council and the entire running of the council in all ways falls on her,” he said.
“What we’ve got to do is represent the ratepayers as best we can.”
Councillors Nuatali Nelmes,Declan Clausen and Jason Dunn were returned for Labor, in addition to a string of new faces includingunion secretaryEmma White, former radio personalityCarol Duncan, nurse Matt Byrne and educator Peta Winney Baartz.
The biggest upsets were in Wards 3 and 4, where Labor took two of thethree available seats.
According to a statement released by the party on Sunday, it was the first time ever that Labor would holda second seat in Ward 3, thanks to a 13 per cent swing in its favour.
Ward 4 saw a record 17.5 per cent swing towards Labor, the party claimed.
Cr Nelmes was pleased theemphatic win came after a period where “hard decisions” had to be made about council’s finances and vision for the city.
“Voters have respected that those were tough decisions and I am encouraged by their support,” she said.
“From Minmi to Merewether, residents tell me they are seeing roadworks in their street for the first time in decades.
“This has only been achieved because Labor councillors have balanced the books, delivered a budget surplus and rejected the idea that slashing staff or services creates better results for residents.”
Mr Mackenzie will step in to fill the void left by thedeparture of Greens councillorsTherese Doyle and Michael Osborne. He paid tribute to his predecessors on Sunday.
“Newcastle has lost a tremendous campaigner in Therese Doyle and that will be felt … at the same time, we are saying goodbye to Michael Osborne who has left a powerful legacy,” he said.
But he felt the makeup of the new council looked promising.
”[For] the first time for a while, we have the possibility of working towards a consensus council. Newcastledeserves to have a council not at war with itself.”