Poor priorities kick off 2018 for Canning?

OPINION PIECE

It’s reasonable to assume that at a time when Canning’s land deals are tanking, community group funding bids are falling short and the McGowan govt seeks to rein in assistance to local govts (it just slashed $285,000 from Canning’s eco education centre), the council would take a more sustainable approach to how the community’s monies are used.

What if Willetton Basketball Assoc’s stadium expansion bid doesn’t get state funding?  Ratepayers are already expected to make up shortfalls in road projects* as Canning struggles to be recognized as the strategic centre it is.

When it comes to community wellbeing, resources have been poured in to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reconciliation plan, but Canning hasn’t yet seized on the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to elevate status and hope for people with disabilities.

Then there’s the fact that hundreds of people aged 55 and over have been shipped out of Canning in the last few years, as public housing is cleared for renewal, with no replacement affordable housing plan in sight.

Clearly there’s a lot of need left to be filled in Canning, issues that need certainty.

Despite this, the City of Canning has ramped up events’ funding by 500% in five years ($300,000 more in 2016/17 alone) to nearly $600,000, and looks set to rise further.

It wasn’t long ago that $100,000 was sufficient to bring the community together several times a year, and, as late as 2014, thousands of residents came out to express satisfaction with how the City was run to “save Canning” from termination under local govt reform.

With the increase in events funding, however, we seem to be both returning to the unintended outcomes of the past and demonstrating a lack of awareness in what it takes to ensure this new level of subsidization reaches the broader community.

Canning’s former council became aware that one ward was receiving more whole-of-ratepayer funded benefits than others – in fact it suspended the City’s donation policy temporarily to reassess the situation.

When it came to other forms of service provision, there was a running joke about how “residents were more likely to get run over by city service vehicles in that ward than anywhere else”.

Which ward was that?  It was Bannister – where in 2015 parliamentary wannabe and local MP Mike Nahan office worker, Ben Kunze, successfully ran for council on a politics-of-envy platform, claiming Bannister received less funding than Canning’s four other wards.

Where’s the new imbalance in what the broader community can expect coming from?

Oddly enough it’s via a food truck event called Midweek Eats, which just received a huge increase in inducements for food and activities, and for the second year is being held – you guessed it – only in Bannister ward.

With Midweek Eats (let’s call it Eats) Bannister seems to be receiving a lot more subsidization, over a much longer run than most events held elsewhere.

Cue Cr Kunze’s faithful sidekick, fellow Bannister councillor Patrick Hall’s rush to Facebook to declare the event is “overwhelmingly supported by the community”.

But is it?  At 2000 people a week, likely a fair percentage factoring as return visits, it’s a drop in the ocean of Canning’s 100,000 population.

I see a bigger issue to how this level of benefit is panning out in an increasingly unaffordable world, and have to wonder if Canning’s council is out of touch with its community’s realities.

In its first year Eats cost $42,000 and ran for five weeks.  This year it shot up to $100,000 and was extended to two months.

It’s basically a pop-up with fast food, a children’s village, farmers market, cafe, kitchen, teepees, a “soft area” for under 5s and other entertainment, with seating, lighting, storage, fencing, generators, security, traffic mgt, first aid and support staff shipped in.

It offers the locals the chance to leave the car at home and walk or cycle in, and bring the dog.

Most of the events held in Canning (Bannister also holds several on Shelley Foreshore) have nothing like the length, level and range of subsidized access to food and fun as Eats does.

New events are being considered, but there’s no sense they will be more than a one day affair.

Yet some areas of Canning are quietly referred to as “lower socio- economic”.  If that’s the quiet case then obviously there’s merit in ensuring what amounts to provision of food and entertainment made affordable, or free, because there’s no restaurant or venue costs passed on to residents, and for weeks at a time, is spread equally across its wards.

It’s clearly transferable infrastructure – so come on other ward councillors, why aren’t we doing that?

Former councillors and staff, people proud of the facilities Canning offers, suggest the following alternative sites: Nicholson Ward’s Canning Vale Oval, Beeloo Ward’s Lynwood Ferndale Football Club, Mason Ward’s Wyong Oval, etc.

Or there are community centres, schools, reserves and what about the near-billion dollar regeneration site in Bentley?  It’s along the road the people of Perth travel to get from Kwinana fwy to Leach and Albany hwy – major promo value!

As for the cost of Eats, in speaking with other councils I was told $10-$15,000 is the average cost of a council event – but $100,000 is “street festival-level funding”.

Canning would need to find another $400,000 to keep the level of newly injected benefit to Bannister consistent across the wards, which would lift the events budget to a million, or perhaps drop Eats down to three weeks in each ward, adapting it to new locations and keeping it fresh.

Or, we could be like Bayswater and move food trucks  to a self-sustaining footing…

Catherine Ehrhardt

For years the amazing Cr Catherine Ehrhardt has arranged regular food truck events, complete with children’s activities, access to facilities, advertising  – all at no cost to ratepayers, and it even makes a modest profit!

(Big bouquet to Catherine there)

As for Cr Kunze, for someone once so concerned about equal distribution of resources, he merely said via his Facebook that I should take my concerns to the Mayor or other councillors and has since blocked access.

Cr Hall? He told me once he was “very worried” about wards like Mason and Nicholson, because their representation had been poor since a council was allowed to return to Canning in 2015.

Not worried enough, it seems, or overly concerned that councillors are supposed to represent Canning  as a whole.

I hope we see a more equitable distribution in who can expect what, and for how long, in the City of Canning.

My thanks to a very gracious lady at Canning Community and Commercial for answering my questions about Midweek Eats.

 

*In 2016 it was mentioned that ratepayers may have to make up the shortfall in funding for major road projects Cecil Avenue and the Jandakot Airport Eastern Link Road. My recollection is this comment came from either Canning’s executive, or Mayor Paul Ng.
Feature Image used with thanks to artist a3phillips https://pixabay.com/en/users/a3phillips-3139677/ 
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