Launceston’s Albert Van Zetten, 10th mayor fails to stand in October poll

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Launceston Mayor Albert Van Zetten is the latest in a string of Tasmanian mayors to announce they will not stand in the next local elections, taking the total number of resignations to 10.

Most of those in the exodus say they are retiring or quitting for personal reasons.

Newcomers due to be elected in October face a changing local government landscape with the introduction of compulsory voting, non-taxpayers being allowed a say for the first time and a sector review by the state government continues.

The majority of mayors not running again are based in the north and northwest of the state: Annette Rockliff in Devonport, Julie Arnold of King Island, Annie Revie of Flinders Island, Robby Walsh of Waratah-Wynyard, Daryl Quilliam of Circular Head, Tim Wilson. of Kentish, and the Mayor of Central Coast, Jan Bonde.

Albert Van Zetten announced the decision with his wife Lyndal on Sunday. (ABC News: Jessica Moran )

Albert Van Zetten was first elected mayor of Tasmania’s second largest city in 2005 and said he now wanted to spend more time with his family.

“I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve this beautiful city, and it’s been an amazing time,” he said.

“My case is that it’s time for me to go. It has nothing to do with what other mayors are doing. If their time is up, then it’s their time.”

Downstate, Doug Chipman is retiring as mayor of Clarence.

He has held the top job for 11 years and said “it’s time for a change”.

Bec Enders resigned as mayor of Huon Valley Council earlier this year amid controversy over the hiring of chief executive Jason Browne.

Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders smiles at the camera.
Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders left office in March after months of community backlash over a controversial recruitment process for the chief executive.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Tasmanian Local Government Association chair Christina Holmdahl said it was not unusual for a large number of mayors to leave.

“It’s something that happens with every second or third council election.”

“The majority of them have been mayors for some time and almost all are stepping down for personal reasons. They believe they have made a contribution,” she said.

“They also believe that maybe it’s time for new energy, new ideas in their municipality.”

A middle-aged woman standing in front of a window wearing a black shirt and red jacket.
King Island Mayor Julie Arnold chose not to contest the position after just one term at the top of the rankings.(ABC News: Sarah Abbott)

Major voting changes underway

With the introduction of compulsory voting for the October elections, local government minister Nic Street said he hoped it would bring more quality candidates to the council.

“I hope compulsory voting will encourage more people to turn out if they believe they will be held accountable by the whole community and not just by people who would normally vote in local elections.”

“We are committed to strengthening local government as best we can, and the best way to strengthen it is to have multiple candidates in each municipality so that people have a legitimate choice to make in October.”

Mr. Van Zetten said he was in favor of compulsory voting.

“I’m sad that I’m not running in a certain way because of mandatory voting. I think it’s best for the incumbents.”

“The time I got my closest vote, which was three votes (between him and the next candidate), a lot of people were like, ‘I didn’t vote for you because I thought you were a shoemaker.’

A woman wearing red glasses sits at a desk
Christina Holmdahl, President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, March 2022.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Christina Holmdahl of the Tasmanian Local Government Association said she believed there were still issues to be resolved when it came to voting in local government elections.

“It’s still going to be a mail-in ballot, so there’s still these issues of undelivered letters, people changing addresses and not updating their voters list.”

It will also be the first time that local government elections will be open to everyone over the age of 18, not just taxpayers.

“I think it’s going to be pretty interesting because of that.”

She hoped the changes wouldn’t prevent new people from running for mayor.

“We hope that all new incoming councilors will have the commitment and vision that the outgoing mayors have had, and they will appreciate what they get from local government.”

Questions about the code of conduct

A 12-month review of local government is underway, which includes a review of its code of conduct.

The code has been in the limelight this year after a number of controversies, including when a Kingborough council meeting escalated into unrest in June, the fact that a council did not have the power to sack a recognized councilor guilty of sexual offences. and the code of conduct investigation regarding the appointment of the general manager of Huon Valley.

A woman is sitting at a table, pointing to the door
Deputy Mayor of Kingborough Council Jo Westwood is trying to eject Councilor David Grace from a council meeting on June 6. (Provided: Kingborough Council)

Nic Street says the review aims to further strengthen local government.

“It’s about looking at local government service, delivery and functions. What they do well, and perhaps what services should be provided by another level of government.”

“At the end of this, we will look at the reforms that have been suggested by the local review board.”

Ms Holmdahl said the next stage of the review, which is due to be completed at the end of the year, should be extended to give more people a say in local government.

“The community was given the opportunity to voice any concerns or suggestions about how local government could be improved, and they were noted.”

“I guess what’s disappointing is the very low level of community participation. It was 0.34% of the voting population that actually participated.”

She said she hoped to reach an agreement with Mr Street to extend the next stage of the review until March.

“It will also cover the fact that after October of this year there may be new advisers who are not even familiar with the process, so we believe there is a period of time needed for new advisers to familiarize themselves as well. with the process.”

Mr Street said it was possible to extend the review.

“That’s a conversation we continue to have with the local government sector at this time.”

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