APOLLO BAY community leaders say they are “bitterly disappointed” the shire failed to elect a councillor from the coastal hub.
Newly elected Colac Otway Shire councillors began their terms this week, but none of the seven councillors live at Apollo Bay.
The coastal town had four candidates – incumbent Frank Buchanan, Tony Webber, Bob Knowles and Yvonne Francis – but they failed to attract enough votes.
Cr Lyn Russell grew up at Apollo Bay but lives at Elliminyt.
Apollo Bay Chamber of Commerce president Nick Polgeest said a Colac-centric council was a “very large concern”.
“I know the councillors will say ‘no, all the councillors will look after us’ but it’s always nicer to have a local councillor who’s more accessible,” he said.
Mr Polgeest said that although the number of Apollo Bay candidates was “fantastic”, the town had paid the price.
“A lot of people didn’t realise that the particular candidates were actually splitting the secondary vote, and that’s how our locals didn’t get a guernsey,” he said.
“We’re going to have to get more vocal, that’s all we can do.”
Great Ocean Road Coastal Planning’s Shelly Fanning said she hoped the council would not forget Apollo Bay.
“It’s critical, as one of the main tourist destinations in the shire, to be reviewed and constantly attended to as would have ordinarily been done if we had had a local councillor,” Mrs Fanning said.
“A local councillor ordinarily is in touch with all those on-the-ground issues in the town, whereas external councillors are removed from the local dialogue in regards to important things happening in the town,” she said.
Mrs Fanning suggested having an “internal election” before future council elections to put forward the Bay’s strongest candidates.
Otway Forum secretary Peter Fillmore said the council could consider returning to a ward system, or the town could form a new shire with Lorne or amalgamate with Surf Coast Shire.
“This is not likely to happen in the short term, so it would be good if the newly elected councillors made the effort to consult and listen to the Apollo Bay residents and ratepayers and move forward with consensus on important issues such as a harbour redevelopment without a luxury resort dominating the landscape on public land,” Mr Fillmore said.
Mr Buchanan said he was disappointed Apollo Bay would have no council representative but declined to comment further.