Candidates thrash out issues

MONEY management, a convention centre, a town planner, sinking the railway line and giving property owners’ votes more weight were some of the issues canvassed in the recent Lord Mayoral debate.

The three candidates Laurance Goodman, Peter Nattrass and Otto Pelczar went toe-to-toe recently in the Property Council of Australia organised debate.

All candidates agreed property owners should receive no greater vote than other city electors.

The Property Council’s contention that property owners paid 91 per cent of council’s rates was found wanting. A large proportion of that 91 per cent comes from the tenants of commercial property owners.

But all three agreed the electoral system needed to be changed to make it easier for property owners to have a vote.

Dr Nattrass said it was scandalous that only 15 per cent of the city’s commercial property owners and occupiers were on the electoral roll.

Mr Goodman said council could run more efficiently if its administration was slashed and outsourcers used.

“Property management is one area for outsourcing,” he said. “We can find $2 million in savings across every aspect of the administration.”

Mr Pelczar said when he stood for council two years ago he found $2.25 million missing in the budget.

“Nobody could explain where it had gone,” he said.

Dr Nattrass said it was difficult to cut money from council’s budget and the yearly budget review was enough.

All three candidates agreed the CBD was the only place for Perth’s convention centre.

Dr Nattrass said he wanted the centre over the railway line. Mr Goodman said the city needed the convention centre in the CBD.

“Council CEO Garry Hunt said one extra five-star hotel would add 3 per cent to council’s rate base.”

Mr Goodman tried unsuccessfully, at council’s April 13 meeting, to have council give the centre’s developers a multi million dollar rate holiday to entice them to the CBD.

Dr Nattrass said council should do all in its power to attract the centre to Perth.

“I have now advised the administration to look into a rate holiday,” he said.

The three believe the ideal place for the convention centre is over the Perth to Fremantle railway line. All agreed the railway line should be sunk so the CBD and Northbridge could be reunited.

But Mr Pelczar also believes quality real estate could be put over the sunken railway line to offset the costs of its sinking.

One major problem with sinking the railway line is that it is currently on reclaimed swamp land. But Mr Pelczar, an engineer, believes the problem is not insurmountable.

“If we can put a tunnel under Hong Kong harbour we can put a tunnel through swamp land,” he said.

Mr Goodman maintains council needs a plan, not a planner.

“We need to plan the development of the city in conjunction with other stakeholders,” he said. “We are advertising for urban planners but the city’s issues run deeper.”

Dr Nattrass believes council needs a planner to tell it “what issues to bring up with the East Perth Redevelopment Authority”.

Mr Pelczar said one man had to take responsibility for the planning of the city.

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