Ratepayers head to WA Parliament to demand say on council mergers

By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 6:23pmTue 18 Nov 2014, 6:23pm

Ratepayers converge on WA Parliament Ratepayers have taken their petitions opposing the council merger process to Parliament. (ABC News: Jessica Strutt)

Ratepayers have converged on Western Australia’s Parliament to present petitions demanding a say on planned council mergers.

The Government is slashing the number of councils in metropolitan Perth from 30 to 16, but only residents in six council areas will be able to vote on the mergers.

A combination of amalgamations and boundary adjustments is being used to cut the number of councils.

Only councils being amalgamated get to vote on the process, but the Government has refused to explain on what basis it was decided which councils will be merged using boundary adjustments, and which will be joined using amalgamations.

Residents in a number of disaffected local governments have organised petitions with thousands of signatures demanding the right to hold a Dadour poll.

Save Serpentine Jarrahdale group’s Jackie Dines said her group had attracted 500 signatures from local residents in one week.

“In the community nobody wants to see their local government area be renamed,” she said.

“At the very least give us our democratic right to have a vote on what happens, [but] they’re not doing that.”

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan accepted the petitions outside Parliament after Local Government Minister Tony Simpson refused to do so.

Mr McGowan said the Government’s process was “a dog’s breakfast” and was disempowering ratepayers.

“The Government has ignored community views and wishes,” he said.

“This is the Premier and the Liberal Party running roughshod over local communities.

“We live in a democratic state and the Premier and the Liberal Party are ignoring basic democratic principles and that’s pretty shameful.”

Quizzed about whether he would grant ratepayers in all local governments access to a poll, Premier Colin Barnett indicated he would not.

“That’s not the law, and what we have said is we have accepted the recommendation as to the structure of local government,” he said.

“We will proceed progressively one by one and I think in time, most local governments will agree.

“This is some sort of rearguard action to stop a modern, functional system of local government for younger generations and generations to follow.”

Residents in the City of Kwinana, which the Government plans to merge with the City of Cockburn, are entitled to vote because their local government is being amalgamated.

At a special meeting today, Kwinana Council voted unanimously to support its community to hold a poll on the proposed amalgamation.

Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said the decision was made after about 500 signatures were collected in favour of residents having access to a poll.

She estimated the cost to ratepayers of the poll would be $50,000.

“We resolved it’s not in the best overall interest of the Kwinana community that we amalgamate because of the high transition costs, no additional funding on offer from the Government and no ward representation,” she said.