COVID-safety measures have resulted in a 2021 local government election campaign with a difference.
The 25 candidates contesting the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council election have been faced campaign restrictions due to COVID-safety measures.
Mayor Peta Pinson, who heads up Group D and is re-contesting the mayoral position, said she thought all the candidates had been disadvantaged in some way given the COVID-related rules.
"It is strikingly different to any other campaign I have been involved in," she said.
Cr Pinson's team made an early decision not to get close to people at voting centres as a COVID-safety measure.
"There is a feeling that people just want to vote and they don't want to be approached," Cr Pinson said.
Mayoral candidate Steven Gates said voters not being harassed outside the polling places was a positive change.
He said restrictions around large gatherings had impacted the campaign.
- Who is in the running for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council election
- 2021 Council Elections: Orbital Road corridor, roads and traffic management
- 2021 Council Elections: Management of Lake Cathie waterway
- 2021 Council Elections: Population growth and supporting infrastructure
- 2021 Council Elections: Development, protecting our coastline and housing
- 2021 Council Elections: What more can council do to protect koalas?
- 2021 Council elections: What is your position on sustainability and climate change
Mr Gates used a podcast series, which examines the issues facing the next elected body, as one of the ways to get his message out.
Lead candidate in Group E and mayoral contender Rachel Sheppard said the COVID-safety rules posed difficulties in getting information to voters who wanted to know about their options.
But she said it had been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the group's volunteers as they chatted with voters within the scope of the COVID-safe guidelines.
Ms Sheppard said that gave them the opportunity to be available to the community in a COVID-safe way.
Candidates/volunteers are entitled to stand within the 100m distance from a voting centre and talk to electors provided they are not handing out electoral material.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, who leads Group A and is contesting the mayoral election, said not being able to hand out material at the polling places made it difficult to get the message across to voters.
"They have historically expected to be able to get that information at the polling place," she said.
No electoral material can be handed out or left out for collection within 100 metres of the entrance to a polling place or a pre-polling venue on polling days.
Cr Intemann believes the candidate signs at the polling places take on extra importance in 2021.
Nik Lipovac, who heads up Group B and is in the running for mayor, said he could understand the reasoning for the COVID restrictions but he was getting questions from ratepayers.
"The 100-metre [exclusion] zone in terms of handing out flyers is ridiculous," he said.
Mr Lipovac said letterbox drops became vitally important, and conversations and social media had also been big parts of getting the message out.
Group C lead candidate Lauren Edwards said the 100 metre rule around handing out how to vote material meant The Greens got creative and designed corflutes to display this information for voters, and it had been good to see a lower use of physical resources and less waste created.
"Importantly, our corflutes then, are now vitally important to be displayed at pre-poll stations to help voters be informed about their choices," she said.
"So it has been a bit frustrating and disappointing that attempting to follow the rules hasn't exactly been straightforward or easy and there has been some confusion about AEC rules versus council rules."
Councillor candidate Jon Bailey said being a solo self-funded independent, the COVID rules hadn't impacted him in a great way.
It was not too difficult to negotiate the COVID safety rules, he said.
Mr Bailey dropped 10,500 flyers in letterboxes and harnessed social media as part of his campaign.
Early voting comes to an end on Friday, December 3, ahead of election day on Saturday, December 4.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's removal of candidates' signs near the CWA early voting centre caused a kerfuffle.
A council spokesperson said the council initiated the removal of electoral signage illegally/incorrectly installed at the pre-polling venue of the CWA hall adjacent to Town Green. The signs have since been returned to candidates.
"Council has provided a compromise by allocating a designated grassed area nearby the pre-polling venue for candidates to install a single sign per group, or independent candidate, up until and including Friday, 3 December 2021," the spokesperson said.
Cr Pinson confirmed she raised the issue of signs in garden beds and on footpaths near the CWA pre-polling centre with the council's CEO Dr Clare Allen.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Bookmark our website
Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
You can support us with a subscription
Follow us on Twitter: @portmacnews
Follow us on Instagram: @portmacnews
Follow us on Google News