THE decision to use a postal ballot to gauge support for the proposed Alfred Cove wave park has been roundly condemned by parties on both sides of the debate.
Issued last week, the postal ballots warn recipients that the Local Government Act requires voting to be conducted so that no vote is secret.
It further states all votes and the names of the people that cast them will be available for viewing by members of the public if requested.
Alfred Cove Action Group spokesperson David Maynier slammed the measure as an invasion of privacy that went far beyond the requirements of the Local Government Act and said it would discourage electors from participating in the ballot.
“At a (normal) electors meeting, voting is by show of hands, hence not secret, but there is no attempt, or requirement, that each vote should be recorded against the identity of the voter – there is no requirement that each vote should be made public,” he said.
“The City may not, on grounds of privacy, release the names of people attending an elector’s meeting without the consent of the individuals concerned.
“To threaten not only to publicise the names of the attendees but their votes as well is a gross infraction of this principle.
“Should any of the meeting attendees decline to vote on the basis of protecting their privacy, or the fear of possible consequences, the poll will have been prejudiced by the City’s ham-fisted attempts at voter intimidation.”
Melville resident and wave park supporter Peter Kuzich questioned the fairness of the postal ballot system, stating many people in favour of the proposal left without signing the attendance register.
“The whole night was not very well organised, the City was not initially aware of the huge number of people stuck outside the conference room and I think the majority of those were definitely wave park supporters,” he said.
“Many wave park supporters have young families and could only rush down to the meeting after work, by which time the yellow voting cards had already run out.
“Once the meeting started the voting register was unmanned and behind the counter so the late arrivals couldn’t register and ended up leaving – some were phoning friends telling them not to bother.”
“That really makes the whole thing null and void because we feel there is going to be an under representation of supporters that were stuck outside and didn’t have the opportunity to register.”
Wave Park Group chairman Andrew Ross said a postal vote was probably the best of the available options but also expressed concerns that a large number of people had left the meeting without registering to vote.
“It was clear that the majority of the people in the actual room on the night seemed to have concerns with the proposal but I don’t think any of us realised that there were so many people outside.
“We have had direct feedback from people saying they turned up at 6.30pm and the registration book was already gone.”
Mr Ross also asked for patience to allow the development application process to run its course.
“It was great to see such a huge turnout on the night and I think there was both significant support for the proposal and also a large variety of concerns – the message we have is just let due process run, all these matters will be addressed using experts in a systematic way,” he said.
City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox said the postal ballot process had been confirmed with the Department of Local Government and Communities and that the addresses of voters would not be made publicly available.
“The electors and speakers who attended the meeting were advised of the postal vote process at the time of the meeting, and had they voted at that time would have been identifiable,” he said.
More than 650 people registered to vote at a special elector’s meeting held to discuss the environmental and community impacts of the contentions wave park on January 23.
At the conclusion of the evening two motions were proposed, one demanding the City of Melville withdraw support for the wave park and the other requesting all of the concerns raised about the project be forwarded to the proponent for consideration in preparation of its formal development application.
The City had only prepared 450 yellow voters cards – 200 short of the number of people who had registered to vote – prompting Mayor Russell Aubrey to announce the City would instead resort to a postal ballot of those who had signed the attendance register.