Buried again (Letter)

ONCE again the City of Vincent has buried the prospect of having underground power, rather than burying the actual power cables.

After a number of failed attempts at getting the city to investigate putting power lines underground, the electors at last January’s Annual General Meeting voted for the city to develop a long-term program to provide underground power throughout the city that was informed by the approach adopted by the City of Subiaco. Subiaco was given as a model as they have put all power underground using long-term loans.

The motion was not supported by the administration because it seems they didn’t bother to find out, or did not understand what Subiaco did. Luckily the council voted to consider this as part of the next Corporate Business Plan review, subject to the admin’s advice on resourcing requirements.

As most of us know, this is the equivalent to Yes Minister’s establishing an interdepartmental committee, but at least it offered a glimmer of hope.

At the October meeting council approved the latest Corporate Business Plan – a plan with no mention of underground power and no mention of resourcing problems.

Some of the projects that did get a guernsey instead include: an arts relief project aimed at spending $500,000 as quickly as possible; developing an arts action plan; developing a wayfinding strategy; a project to fix the North Perth Common because it doesn’t function, has safety problems, and the community is not happy with it; and perhaps my favourite, developing a marketing plan to work out what a section that cost $808,000 in salaries alone last financial year should be doing.

I can understand why the administration may feel they do not have the resources to investigate underground power (i.e. quality rather than quantity). The same Corporate Business Plan shows the administration has been working on a community engagement project for 22 months, and so far all they have done is review information, and started to prepare a problem definition statement!

Vincent has dropped the ball on underground power a number of times in the past. There was $30,000 in the 2013/14 budget to get consultants to develop a financial model based on Subiaco’s approach. This was quietly removed in 2014 because the administration said they could do it in-house – but they never did.

The city did not bother putting in an expression of interest with the state government when it last offered funding in 2016. Interestingly, our neighbours at the Town of Cambridge received $4 million for three areas in that funding round, and I believe they have most of their town covered.

Perhaps what I find most galling is the promises at election time that evaporate as soon as an election is over. In 2017 the mayor said she was committed to “engage with the community on underground power by taking detailed options to the community for full consultation and community endorsement”. She has proved to be one of the most diligent elected representatives, yet she has failed to deliver on this.

Dudley Maier

The Ed says: We asked mayor Emma Cole about this, and she said the council voted in March to “consider” an underground power policy in the next corporate business plan, but Covid, repairing Beatty Park and a rates freeze mandated by the McGowan government became priorities. But she’s still keen and notes there’s three years left in her current term.

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