Stop playing it safe! Head of WA Local Govt Assoc thinks Councils should move on…

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Slap! (Photo credit: Vermin Inc) CC NC Share-Alike Flickr

Troy Pickard is his name, and yes, he’s a Liberal supporter – but also Mayor of our 2nd largest Council by population, Joondalup.

Mr Pickard’s views about the unwillingness of Councils to embrace the wider possibilities of mergers are blunt.

Does he know something we don’t?

In a recent 7.30 WA report on ABC, regarding possible City of Canning merger partner Town of Victoria Park’s dependence on Burswood Resort and Casino rates, Mr Pickard said “[that council] relying on 16% of [its] revenue coming from one organisation is a bit risky…..”.

In fact the Mayor of the Town of Victoria Park stated recently that removal of Burswood’s rates revenue would “cripple” the council and render it unsustainable.

Where did all this suddenly come from?  The City of Perth’s submission to the Metro Local Govt Review has revealed a “land and asset grab” (see below).

Many of our local metro Councils have expressed a desire, in the first instance, to remain as they are – but are their assumptions of “financial sustainability” taking too much for granted?

We didn’t anticipate a lot of changes that have occurred in our society over the last 10 years….. the switch to online retail, 110,000 people in WA involved in fly in/fly out mining, the 70% increase in housing prices –  and it was only yesterday we were debating if our children should learn Japanese in school as standard.

Nobody was talking about China!

We also don’t know what to expect from the Barnett Govt.  The merger of the Dept of Local Govt with, essentially, human care services provider, Dept of Communities, was totally unexpected – but it will have ramifications on Councils.

Part of the final recommendations made in the Metro Local Govt Review was that council boundaries be reviewed regularly.

What kind of effect on Council assumptions now might that have?

Let’s look at an interesting parallel – how adjustments to electoral boundaries can make or break a politician’s fortunes.

The seat of Riverton, retained recently by then first-time MP and now Minister, Mike Nahan, only came in to being in 1989.

At that time, the Blue Ribbon (Liberal) voting suburb of Rossmoyne was part of the newly created Riverton’s electoral boundary.

However, Riverton was then subjected to four electoral boundary changes in 14 years, the first of which, in 1996, cut Rossmoyne out of Riverton.

Rossmoyne stayed excised from Riverton’s voting catchment until 2013, nine months after high profile Labor candidate, Hannah Beazley, began to campaign for the seat of Riverton – and in time for the election that swept the Barnett Govt back in to power.

The ABC has documented how bringing Rossmoyne back in to Riverton’s electoral boundary worked in Mr Nahan’s favour (7.30 WA, and
election coverage), stating  how “on paper [it] lift[ed] the Liberal Party’s ultra-thin margin of 0.2% to an estimated 2.0%”.

Prior to this Mr Nahan’s hold over Riverton was considered marginal.  It’s now viewed as a safe seat, with Labor having lost its bid for it a second time.

Clearly the Metro Local Govt Review sees benefits in regular reviews of which Council has what land and assets – and recommends this occur every 15 years.

If that turns out to be the case, we cannot know in 2013 where Council boundaries will fall in the future, and if they will eventually end up where the report believes they should.

We also don’t know if the future review process will include a great big consultation process as this, our once-in-a-lifetime Council merger opportunity, has.

The President of WA Local Govt Association is concerned many Councils may not be acting in their longer term interests if they don’t seek to strengthen their existing position through strategically advantageous mergers.

For Councils who wish to remain unchanged, Mr Pickard’s message is, “I don’t think that there’s a great track record, in Local Govt land, of Councils working collaboratively with their neighbours….”.

Presumably the Barnett Govt feels the same way.

Its impatience with Councils not agreeing to a more dense development of their suburbs, for example, as our population swells, saw powerful and sweeping changes made to legislation that determines who can green light new development in your local area.

Today, frequently, it’s not your local Council.

Last week Mr Pickard stepped up his push for Councils to seize the day on  amalgamations.

The City of Perth has just revealed their bid – believing considerable assets should be transferred to them, including QEII, University of WA and Burswood Casino and Convention Centre (and presumably the new sports stadium), to ensure their long-term ability to meet the needs of a capital city, and its growing residential population.

In fact the City’s submission exceeds the recommendations of the Metro Local Govt Review.

Ultimately, Mr Pickard wasted no words in his concern Councils are not embracing the amalgamation process as they should:

“…the landslide election win for the Liberals sends a clear message of the strong community support enjoyed by the Barnett Government…..I…do not accept the misty-eyed daydream that somehow only smaller Local Governments can properly serve the community…..I do fear that if metropolitan Councils are unable or unwilling to respond decisively and positively to reform, there is fast approaching the day when it will be taken out of our hands“.

See Troy Pickard’s Advertorial as placed in The West Australian, April HERE

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3 thoughts on “Stop playing it safe! Head of WA Local Govt Assoc thinks Councils should move on…

  1. there is NO [ zero ] research /analysis to say bigger local government is better ; in fact the only research undertaken in australia [ in queensland ] illustrares the opposite
    another example of ” not letting fact get in the road of ideology”

    local government and community ; not a bad combination
    however amalgamations are anti community ; joondalup is not a community ; it is part of the old LGA of wanneroo

    pickard is a joke ; selling local government down the river
    remember vic park , vincent and cambridge were all part of the city of perth
    20 years ago

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  2. Perhaps if the Government policed WALGA , you might think that all will be well, the problem is that it does not. In the words of the DLGC , ” there is no-one policing them” What you all may not know or may have forgotten is that WALGA is simply an association, they get paid to lobby and in the words of the CEO are ” not here for the ratepayers, we are here to be an advocate for the councils, and to act for the councils” , ratepayers and electors, don’t be misunderstood, you are of no concern to WALGA, only their back pocket and whatever they can get away with-they will

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