ANOTHER spat has broken out between the City of Perth and the McGowan government after local government minister John Carey approved a rates exemption for the WACA.
Last year premier Mark McGowan said the council had “failed the local community” after it backed out of an agreement to fund a public swimming pool as part of a redevelopment of the sporting ground.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, a visibly agitated lord mayor Basil Zempilas hit back, saying ratepayers were being asked to wear the costs of subsidising the WACA when it was the McGowan government’s decision to close the state’s borders which prevented it from holding international cricket matches for two years.
“All the decisions that led to the financial impact on the WACA were decisions that were made by state government, not decisions that were made by the City of Perth,” Mr Zempilas said.
“If there were any concessions to be afforded the WACA … those concessions should have come from state government charges, not from charges of the City of Perth.
In his letter to council CEO Michelle Reynolds, Mr Carey also cited the impact on the WACA from nearby construction in his decision to approve the exemption, but Mr Zemilas wasn’t buying that argument.
“It would be impossible for us not to highlight that a great number of City of Perth businesses have had exactly the same impact from that one-two combination; Covid and construction,” he said.
“I wonder now will there be a stampede of ratepayers writing to the minister requesting the same concession that the WACA has been afforded.”
The council voted to write to the minister expressing disappointment he’d overturned a 2018 decision by former local government minister David Templeman that the WACA would no longer get a 100 per cent rate exemption and that another arrangement needed to be negotiated.
Councillor Clyde Bevan said the rates exemption was hard to justify given the public accounts of the WACA showed a $2.3 million profit last year and a $500,000 profit the year before during the Covid epi-centre.
“I have looked up on the membership of the WACA; the 1885 membership is sold out and there is a waiting list for it, and I can’t see why ratepayers should be subsidising the WACA,” Cr Bevan said.
“Secondly they have a Champions Club, and it states on their website: ‘Experience cricket in first class and the highest level of luxury by adding a Champions Club card to your membership’.
“And then it says: “Enjoy exceptional food, beverage and in-seat service while relaxing in leather reclining armchairs’.
“I can’t see these people can’t afford to pay their rates and taxes when that membership is $3850.”
Councillor Sandy Anghie was the only one to vote against the letter: “I think it’s all outlined here that the minister has the right to do this and I can see that the city isn’t necessarily very happy, but the minister is the minister.”
A report to councillors said between 2018/19 and 2021/22, $736,000 rates were levied against the WACA, but a concession meant they only had to pay $49,000.
This year the WACA was sent a $199,000 rates bill after the council approved the annual budget, but chief financial officer Michael Kent said there was no point making an adjustment to fill the hole until the minister’s decision had been gazetted.
by STEVE GRANT