NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock has continued to face criticism from some Wagga councillors over delaying council elections for a second time.
The timeline for the delayed elections could see Wagga's new councillors confirmed a few days before Christmas and their first meeting soon after.
The NSW government quietly released a written order on Saturday delaying the elections from September to December 4, 2021.
Wagga councillor Rod Kendall said there would be impacts on council staff and new councillors due to holding the election in early December.
"The date chosen would appear to me to be most appropriate, given that the priority after an election result is formally declared is to get the first meeting of council to happen at the earliest possible time to get the business and governance of council recommencing," he said.
"The letter from the [Local Government] minister indicates that they expect the [results] to be declared between the 21st and 23rd of December, which is a couple of days before Christmas if I remember rightly.
"It then means that elected councillors and general managers are then expected during that time, which is traditionally a break for lots of businesses and local governments, to try and get that council meeting happening within a week or ten days of that declaration.
"It's either not going to happen or it's going to happen at great inconvenience."
Ms Hancock's office did not respond to questions prior to deadline about whether there was a plan for COVID-safe elections developed since May 2020 and why areas with no coronavirus cases like Wagga needed to delay elections.
Ms Hancock did release more information yesterday about how the council elections would be run in December.
"It would be untenable for the government to encourage electors to leave their homes to vote at a time when people are also being advised not to leave their homes unless it is essential to do so, to limit the spread of the virus," the NSW government statement said.
"The government is also concerned that the current outbreak and restrictions may see a low voter turnout at council elections that could jeopardise the legitimacy of election outcomes and public confidence in them."
The statement also said that regional areas had their elections delayed due to the stay at home restrictions imposed around Orange and transmission hotspots identified in other areas.
"The government cannot take the chance that there will be no further outbreaks in regional areas between now and September 4, 2021 that would put council elections in those areas at risk," the statement said.
"Conducting council elections in regional areas will also require the movement of personnel and equipment from Greater Sydney to those areas [which] may cause the virus to be seeded in those areas."
The statement said it was too late to change the Local Government Act to allow council elections to take place entirely by postal and online vote.
Kendall said that he understood the need to make changes because of the pandemic but he had an issue with the lack of consultation with councils about the decision.
"Delays are something, in these COVID times, that we have to understand and work with but the letter advising us from the [Local Government] Minister said she had extensive consultation with NSW Health and extensive conversations with the electoral commission," Cr Kendall said.
"It didn't mention anywhere that she had a conversation with local government and I would have thought amongst the first people she would consult would be local government nsw as the peak representative body.
"Assuming that is the case, it just beggars belief that a decision that effects every local government in NSW would be made without any consultation or discussion with local government at all."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: