Benjamin Avila hopes that winning a seat on the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale council will enable him to assist businesses avoid the fate that befell his.
A 40under40 winner in 2013, Mr Avila was a director of Bio Organics, a recycling business in Oakford that was forced to shut down three years ago after a series of legal disputes with the shire and the state government.
The issues originated when Bio Organics became aware that its 10-year operating permit had expired, at which point it liaised with the shire to allow the business to continue operating whilea new permit was processed.
Part-way through the application process, the shire’s legal representatives approached Bio Organics and ordered it cease operations.
Within months, Bio Organics and Mr Avila’s parents, who own the property on which the business was operating, were charged with criminal offences.
Last month, criminal proceedings against Bio Organics and Mr Avila’s parents concluded with both being found not guilty of the charges and the shire ordered to pay costs.
Mr Avila also settled out of court a defamation case against former shire president Keith Ellis, in relation to comments he made on 6PR radio at the time.
Mr Ellis was also forced to apologise on public record.
However, the state government also launched a contaminated sites investigation into Bio Organics, based on claims by neighbouring residents of groundwater contamination.
The Department of Environment Regulation’s found no evidence of contamination and those findings were verified by an independent audit.
However, it also exposed a long list of inaccuracies in DER records regarding materials received at the Bio Organics site.
Consultants for Bio Organics alerted the department in 2014 of the recording errors but no response has been received by the company.
“By unilaterally changing the public record, Bio Organics has been wrongly accused and it has unfairly caused alarm to residents,” Mr Avila said.
“This is why it is so important to set the record straight.”
Now, Mr Avila hopes to win a council seat in the shire’s upcoming election.
He said his primary objective was to make sure that ratepayers’ money was put toward positive improvements across the shire, and that no other business owners faced the same vilification his business endured.
“This area has been dubbed Australia’s fastest-growing region, but there’s a lot of catching up in terms of improved infrastructure that needs to happen to sustain population,” Mr Avila said.
“It’s also a wonderfully diverse and beautiful region right on the doorstep of the metropolitan area so there is ample opportunity for sustainable tourism and supporting businesses to be developed.”
Mr Avila said while the events that led to the failure of his business played a major part of his decision to run for council, he wanted it understood that in doing so he wasn’t trying to be vindictive.
“I want to be able to focus once again on serving the community that my family lives in and in which we are trying to run viable enterprises,” he said.
“I also want to ensure no other business owners or ratepayers in the community are subjected to the same sort of frivolous action that we’ve been through.
“It’s time for the shire to be very active in promoting what’s in the best interests of the community and how ratepayers’ money is spent.”