WA Day ultimatum

‘Pay $500,000 or we won’t come’

WA Day celebrations look like they’ll be held outside the WA capital after Perth city councillors decided against giving organisers the full funding they wanted. 

It was held in the Perth CBD in 2018 but then the major events moved to Burswood in 2019 before being Covid-cancelled in 2020.

Perth councillors have now voted to pitch in $150,000 funding in hopes of bringing most of the WA Day celebrations back to the city, falling short of the $500,000 the organiser Celebrate WA had requested. 

As the Voice went to print, Celebrate WA was yet to publicly confirm the locations of the June 6 and 7 events, but one of their board members Fiona Kalaf last week told councillors they just wouldn’t be able to do it in the city without $500,000 funding.

Ms Kalaf said most of the $150,000 would have to go towards “hostile vehicle management”, referring to the barriers introduced under federal government guidelines following a number of vehicle attacks over east and overseas.

The pricey barriers were the reason most of the 2021 Chinese New Year was moved to the Perth Cultural Centre precinct instead of happening in the streets.

Ms Kalaf told councillors: “We ask you to consider… whether or not the state’s major celebration should be held in Burswood or be brought home to the heart of our state, the capital city of Perth WA.

“Celebrate WA will bring life back into the city: Fireworks, a world class music festival, a free family friendly festival attracting over 150,000 people, and] significant economic value to the city and its ratepayers,” estimating the $500,000 will result in $23 million of economic activity. 

She said without the full funding it was unlikely Celebrate WA would consider a move in the future either.

A skeleton crew council of just five members had to make the call, as Cr Di Bain was an apology and three other members had declared potential conflicts of interest and stepped out of the room: Lord mayor Basil Zempilas is employed by Seven West Media, whose chief executive Maryna Fewster sits on the Celebrate WA board; deputy mayor Sandy Anghie is married to Celebrate WA chair Michael Anghie; and councillor Brent Fleeton is employed by Clarity Communications who handles Celebrate WA’s PR. 

In the sparse chamber councillor Rebecca Gordon said the projected footfall was attractive, but agreed staff had made the right call in recommending $150,000.

“Notwithstanding that this may result in the event not occurring in the City of Perth, I think this is the appropriate figure,” Cr Gordon told the chamber.

A Celebrate WA spokesperson told us an official announcement was impending.

by DAVID BELL

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