Under the Local Government Act 1993, council elections are held on the second Saturday in September every 4 years. By-elections are conducted periodically when a councillor vacancy occurs. Councils can conduct their own elections or elections can be conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission.
There are 152 councils in NSW, with the number of electors enrolled in each varying from less than 1,000 to over 150,000.
The boundaries for a council area are changed from time to time and are determined through legislation and processes managed by the Division of Local Government, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
A council can be either:
Undivided, which means the councillors are elected by the whole council electorate; or
Divided, which means the council is subdivided into electorates, known as wards, from which an equal number of councillors are to be elected.
Councillors are elected for 4 years.
Although the number of councillors to be elected varies from council to council, each council is made up of between 5 and 15 councillors (one of whom is the Mayor).
Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and where there are 2 or more positions to be filled, a candidate needs to achieve a quota of the votes to be elected.
As a general rule the councillors elect one of their number to be the Mayor. However in some councils it has been decided by referendum that the voters will elect the Mayor. Where this is the case, the Mayor is said to be ‘elected by popular vote’ or ‘a directly elected Mayor’. In this situation the optional preferential method of voting is used.
A Mayor elected by the voters serves a 4 year term, and a Mayor elected by the other councillors serves a 1 year term.
For information on all councils including contact details visit the Local Government Directory.
After each Local Government election, the Division of Local Government surveys all councils. A report on the findings provides information about the representation of the community on local councils. As well as describing the characteristics of councillors and candidates such as gender, age and experience, the report identifies trends over time. The latest report is available on their website.
The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW are the peak organisations for local government in NSW and councils can be members of either. These associations represent councils by:
- presenting their views to governments
- promoting local government to the community
- providing specialist advice and services.