Armidale Regional Councillors are being asked to extend their current term for another three months following the announcement that the upcoming local government elections have been postponed for a second time.
NSW Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock on Saturday confirmed the election date had been pushed back from September 4 to December 4 for all NSW councils except Central Coast Council, which is currently in the hands of an administrator.
The only two councillors not planning to stand for reelection in Armidale are Ian Tiley and Andrew Murat. Both say they are happy to stay for as long as needed.
"Whatever the term ends up being because of COVID-19, I'll stick around until then," Cr Murat said.
Cr Tiley said he felt they owed it to the community to see out their term.
"I am absolutely committed to remain in my role until a new council is elected," he said. "I've spoken to the other councillors, and they are all totally committed as well."
While they are not in total agreement that the Minister for Local Government has made the right decision in postponing the election, both Cr Tiley and Cr Murat agree community health is a priority.
"You've got to look after the health of the population; you can't just blindly push ahead with the election," Cr Murat said.
Cr Tiley said he thought there were other methods to work around COVID-19 concerns.
"They could have extended the prepoll period and the online voting facility," he said.
"Councillors are going to be doing five years and three months - that's a big call for people who only signed up for four years."
Cr Murat sees the delay as an opportunity to champion his priority projects further.
"I might end up getting a couple of things across the line before coming off the council, so that will be good," he said.
With all election process key dates now pushed back by three months, current councillors will continue to make decisions until November. And the registration to nominate for election deadline will also be extended to November, but Cr Murat does not think this will flush out any more potential candidates in the short term.
"There's always a few that won't show their cards until the last minute, and that won't change," he said.
However, Cr Tiley thinks the extension could have an 'indirect advantage' and mean more candidates step up.
"I've talked to a couple of people today who say they now have time to reconsider standing. So some good people may come forward and put their hand up.
"My concern is that as things get worse - will we have an election in December?
"I think the only way to do it is with online voting as an option along with pre-polling, voting on the day and postal. State elections have had online available for the last three terms, so it is not as if it is totally new stuff."
The postponement means election results are now not expected to be announced until December 21.
"It's going to be a very protracted election process," Cr Murat said.
The extension will also mean a gap over the festive season when only the mayor will be on the council.
"It means you either get a really good Christmas present or a crook one," Cr Tiley said
"But it also means at best you won't get a first new council meeting until the second week of January.
"Sitting mayors in all councils remain the council in the case of an emergency until the new mayor is elected so I might have a working Christmas - I pray there are no bush fires."
And with the Office of Local Government adamant that the new local council term finishes in September 2024, the next council will only serve a term for two years and eight months.
Cr Tiley said he hoped existing councillors intending to restand put off their electioneering for a couple of months.
"It will make council meetings a bit difficult if they are on bandwagons trying to garner votes," he said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: