UPDATED 1 August 2013 — The West Australian State Government has embarked on its long awaited local council reforms with cuts to local government numbers from 30 to 14, in the meantime creating nine new local government areas through a series of mergers.
The changes would be applauded by the state’s commercial property industry but WA Local Government Association President Troy Pickard told media waiting after the historic meeting on Tuesday there would be a number of people who would not support the proposed blueprint.
“As an association we will provide them with the necessary support and assistance through the challenges they will face,” he said.
“We also have a large number of mayors and local government authorities embracing the blueprint that’s laid before them and of course we’ll be working collaboratively with them.”
The Wanneroo, Joondalup and Rockingham local government areas would remain unchanged. Perth and Stirling would undergo boundary adjustments and Vincent residents would become ratepayers of either Stirling or Perth.
Premier Colin Barnett said the key objective was to “create stronger councils to provide the best possible services to residents with maximum efficiency – and modern councils to meet the needs of a rapidly growing city”.
“Perth is the fastest growing city in Australia but our local government structure dates back to the late 1800s when residents, communities and the city faced vastly different issues,” he said.
The reform plan, which will take effect from July 2015, proposes mergers between:
- The City of South Perth and the town of Victoria Park
- The City of Cockburn and the City of Kwinana
- The City of Melville strengthening the port city of Fremantle and East Fremantle
- The City of Armadale with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale
- The City of Bayswater with the town of Bassendean
- The City of Swan with the Shire of Mundaring
- The City of Canning with the City of Gosnells
- The City of Belmont and the Shire of Kalamunda
- The cities of Nedlands and Subiaco, with the towns of Cambridge, Claremont, Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove plus North Fremantle, Wembley Downs and Churchlands
Media comments came from a number of mayors as they left the meeting.
One mayor happy with the changes is Perth Mayor Lisa Scaffidi who said “in the specific context of the City of Perth, we are broadly very satisfied with the overall announcement”.
“We never thought we would necessarily get all of the City of Vincent.
“But we were saying as a capital city authority our focus needs to be on the elements that are in that area and that meant getting Northbridge under one roof, focusing on things such as the university, the importance of the stadium and the casino, not in the rates perspective but for the strategy of tourism promotion and smartness of transport efficiency.”
City of Vincent Mayor Alannah MacTiernan said the move showed “a systematic disregard for the import of the local authorities”.
“And the other amazing thing is that Mr Barnett has felt totally comfortable with reneging on his commitment before the election that there would be no forced amalgamation.
“Today made it absolutely clear ‘yeah, if you don’t like what we’ve proposed, we’re just going to do it’ a complete and utter abandonment of the commitment for no forced amalgamations, most of us wanted to work cooperatively with the government.”
Town of Cottesloe Mayor Kevin Morgan said it was a forced amalgamation.
“Despite a matter of about 18 weeks ago both Mr Simpson and Mr Barnett and the Liberal Party going to a State Election on a platform of no forced amalgamations,” he said.
“The bigger travesty is going to be the community disengagement that will be caused not through the amalgamation but through the use of force.”
Finally City of Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said there was no longer any pretence that the amalgamations were not forced.
“Councils have until the 4th of October to submit a proposal, if they submit nothing then the minister will submit a proposal,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate, things like Hollywood Private Hospital going to the City of Perth. There’s $340,000 worth of rates each year that we miss out on, it’s not as if the City of Perth needs more money.”
Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said the reforms aimed to deliver strategic benefits for Perth, and financially stable councils, with a population of about 100,000 each.
“All levels of government face pressures to provide affordable services. The mergers bring councils together to create economies of scale that offer the best opportunity to keep rates down and deliver services,” he said.
“It’s not about changing suburbs or about changing what people love about their street – it’s about creating stronger councils to serve them.”
Mr Simpson said the announcement came four years after WA’s local governments were asked to voluntarily merge, and followed widespread consultation and consideration of more than 600 submissions.
Local government elections are planned for mid-October with the newly elected councillors to shape the new larger councils.
Meanwhile, the WA Property Council of Australia has “strongly endorsed” the move.
Executive director Joe Lenzo said the new council boundaries and fewer councils would allow the property sector to better accommodate Perth’s future growth.
“Larger councils with more strategic boundaries will be better resourced to deliver consistent local planning services and make strategic policy decisions,” Mr Lenzo said.
“Perth’s rapid growth requires significant infrastructure investments which are best handled by well-resourced and strategically located councils.
“The new boundaries will better represent Perth’s social and economic framework.”
Mr Lenzo said the new City of Perth would be in-line with the CBD’s rapid growth northward, precipitated by the Perth City Link.
“The CBD can now grow without the constraint of conflicting neighbouring council regulations,” he said.
“A larger single western suburbs council will finally be able to embrace necessary housing infill and development that is vital to give local residents the housing choices and amenities they have been long denied.
“The new council boundaries also recognise the importance of strategic economic centres being located within a single local government area, such as the Perth Airport.”