Victorian council turmoil ends in sacking

Adem Somyurek has cited high levels of tension between councillors on South Gippsland Council.
Adem Somyurek has cited high levels of tension between councillors on South Gippsland Council.

Victoria's parliament will sack South Gippsland Shire Council amid ongoing "governance failure" including high tension between nine councillors.

A bill had been introduced on Wednesday to dismiss the council, Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek said following the damning findings of an investigation and a recommendation by municipal monitor Peter Stephenson.

"We have accepted the recommendation of the commission of inquiry to dismiss the council until October 2021," Mr Somyurek said in a statement.

"The dismissal of the shire will ensure that residents, ratepayers and business of South Gippsland get a council that functions in their best interests."

The move to sack the council is considered most serious, the minister added.

He cited high levels of tension between councillors which have impacted council's performance and hit its level of community respect.

"There has been a serious failure by the council to provide good government," Mr Stephenson said in his report tabled in state parliament.

However Municipal Association of Victoria president Coral Ross said the dismantling of a democratically-elected government was never the best solution.

"We seek an assurance from the minister for local government that due process was followed before reaching the dismissal decision," Cr Ross said.

She said MAV will request a briefing from the minister on the process to ensure local democracy is returned to the community in a timely way.

Six councillors have resigned from the council over the past eight months in a move the state government said weakened the council's legitimacy.

An interim administrator will be appointed to give ratepayers certainty around the shire's governance and accountability.

A general election will be held in October 2021.

Australian Associated Press