Bring back council

FORMER Subiaco ratepayers who were swept into the City of Perth during council amalgamations are fuming the new councillors who’d served them well have been suspended.

Anna Vanderbom from the City of Perth Western Residents Association says her members aren’t happy they’ll be represented by three state-appointed commissioners while an investigation takes place into elected members’ conduct.

Ms Vanderbom says that if unelected commissioners make a planning decision that affects them, they’ll have no recourse to vote them out.

Perth council took over parts of Crawley and Hollywood in mid-2016 and Ms Vanderborm says many residents there feared the city would just focus on the needs of businesses.

But she says they’ve been pleasantly surprised with how dedicated some councillors have been, naming Jemma Green, Reece Harley and Steve Hasluck.

“They’ve been incredibly responsive, hard working and respectful of the community,” Ms Vanderborm says.

“Reece Harley has come to our residents meetings. We must have had 20 or 30 different different issues people have raised with him over the past one and a half years, and he has approached them systematically, he’s worked through these issues for us, he’s been fabulous.

Hefty warchest

“Jemma Green’s been fabulous … Steve Hasluck has attended residents meetings. They’ve been responding to our concerns.

“When we first joined the City of Perth we were very concerned …. since then we’ve become a lot happier that residential ratepayers’ concerns are being considered.”

That optimism was dashed when it was announced three commissioners—former WA Planning Commission chair Eric Lumsden, former Perth Education City chief Gaye McMath, and ex-Rockingham council CEO Andrew Hammond—were being appointed.

In a recent speech to the WA Urban Development Institute, Mr Lumsden said one of his proudest achievements was convincing the Barnett government to introduce Development Assessment Panels, because councillors “play games on planning decisions”. The DAPs instead have three state-appointed members and two councillors to make decisions on big planning projects.

Ms Vanderbom says they’re a little worried as they view the DAPs as being very pro-developer, and if the commissioners make a planning decision that affects them they’ll have no recourse to vote them out.

The three commissioners will decide whether councillors will get paid during their suspension.

Ms Vanderbom says those who haven’t been found to have done anything wrong should still be paid.

She says there’s a perception the wealthier councillors are more representative of the big end of town and should there be a new election down the line they’ll have a hefty warchest to run a re-election campaign.

She’s worried that the less affluent councillors, which she feel represents her residents, will face a financial Matterhorn if they have to run again.

by DAVID BELL

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