Calls to cancel Newcastle council byelection ignored: poll

CALLS to cancel next month’s byelection in Newcastle appear to have fallen flat, with the NSW Electoral Commission pushing ahead and calling for nominations on Monday.

Having faced state and lord mayoral byelections late last year, and facing another full state election in March, about 20,000 Newcastle residents return to the polls  on February 21 to fill the councillor vacancy created when Nuatali Nelmes was elected lord mayor.

A week into her new job, Cr Nelmes wrote to Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul O’Toole and asked them to use their discretion and cancel the need for another byelection.

Newcastle voters were suffering from ‘‘acute election fatigue’’, she said, while the cost was ‘‘an extremely extravagant expense for little gain’’.

The Newcastle Herald revealed last month that the ward three byelection will cost the city’s ratepayers another $200,000.

Cr Nelmes said on Monday that she had not received any reply to her request.

The electoral commission formally called for candidate nominations on Monday, and will close them on January 21. It will also hold information sessions for potential candidates at City Hall on Wednesday.

At this stage, no formal nominations have been received, although Labor and the Greens are expected to announce their candidates in coming days.

A 22-year-old environmental engineering student remains the favourite to win Labor preselection. Declan Clausen, the Newcastle president of Young Labor and former Lambton High School captain, is believed to be one of two Labor candidates competing for preselection.

The Greens are tipped to endorse Nevenka Bareham after a party meeting this week. Ms Bareham has contested the council elections for the Greens in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

The Liberals will not be endorsing a candidate. Party sources said all efforts were going into the full state election in March.

It had been widely rumoured that former NBN sports presenter Mike Rabbitt would run with considerable backing from the city’s business community, but he has declined the advances.

Only residents of ward three will be required to vote in the February 21 byelection. Ward three is roughly bordered by Kotara, New Lambton, Lambton, Waratah and Jesmond.

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