Historical moment for Federation Council

September 13, 2017

Candidate Graham Withers handing out his ‘how to vote’ flyer.

The barbecue was fired up at Corowa Public School.

Counting is still underway in the Federation Council election with former Urana Shire Mayor Pat Bourke and new-comers to local government Corowa’s Shaun Whitechurch and Howlong’s David Longley the first to be voted in on the nine-member council.

The vote count started on Saturday evening with residents able to follow the rolling tally via the NSW Electoral Commission’s website.

Mr Bourke told The Free Press he was amazed at the high number of first preference votes his group received (1207), saying he could not have won his seat without the support of his fellow ticket members which numbered ten candidates.

“It’s been amazing the support that people have given us,” he said.

“The number of votes reflects on the great team that I had, they were a great brunch of really hard workers and I was just so lucky to have them.”

Mr Bourke, who owns Billabong Agriculture in Urana and Oaklands, served four years as deputy mayor and almost three terms as mayor of the Urana Shire Council up until the amalgamation.

He now faces a nervous wait to see if number two on his ticket, John Doyle, joins him on council.

“He has sort of got his toe over the line and we are just waiting to see what happens with this last lot of votes,” Mr Bourke said.

“It would be great to see him on council with me, he’s a really good councillor and has a lot to offer.”

Mr Bourke could also be Federation Council’s first mayor.

“I am certainly keen to put my hand up given my experience as past mayor with Urana,” he said.

Both Mr Bourke’s and Mr Whitechurch’s groups (D and A respectively) polled strongly from the outset on Saturday night.

Mr Whitechurch’s group received a staggering 1351 first preference votes and was still pinching himself on Monday.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“Over 3000 people voted in Corowa and I have picked up almost 1400 first preference votes so that’s almost half the town that has voted for me.

“It was literally like that because every second person who walked through was saying ‘yep, I’m voting for you’.”

Mr Whitechurch, who is the operations manager at Corowa’s Focus Engineering with his boss James Webb who was also on his ticket, said he would not seek out the position of mayor.

“I am not going to put my hand up for mayor, I mean I work full-time and the mayor is almost a full-time job itself,” he said.

“And we still don’t know who is on the council, some of these people are pretty nervous sitting back three days after the election and wondering if they have got a spot and I was just pretty lucky that I got on early.”

Meanwhile, David Longley discovered he had cemented his position on council through a text message from his daughter.

“I was at the polling centre all day and went to the pub after the polls closed and had a feed and a few beers and went home, so I didn’t stay up for the voting that night,” he said.

“I went to watch the footy but I crashed and slept through the footy and everything else.

“My daughter sent me a text message in the morning congratulating me, so I had a stickybeak and saw that I did win well.”

The Lowe Square committee of management chairman received 765 first preference votes.

To date 6901formal votes have been counted and 621 informal votes as the newspaper went to print.

Counting could take several more days as preferences are taken into consideration before the six remaining spots on council are announced.

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