22/10/2014 - 11:57

City of Perth expands, but not to Burswood

22/10/2014 - 11:57

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The state government will legislate to include the University of Western Australia, Kings Park, the QEII Medical Centre and the City of Vincent in the City of Perth, but will not include the Burswood Peninsula after that proposal was rejected by the independent Local Government Advisory Board.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson unveiling the report at Dumas House today. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government will legislate to include the University of Western Australia, Kings Park, the QEII Medical Centre and the City of Vincent in an expanded City of Perth, but will not include the Burswood Peninsula after that proposal was rejected.

Premier Colin Barnett and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson today announced that cabinet had approved most recommendations in the Local Government Advisory Board report, with a plan to shrink the number of metropolitan area councils from 30 to 16.

The reduction will be achieved by a variety of boundary changes and voluntary amalgamations, with Mr Barnett saying the existing local government act made the adjustment complex.

Mr Simpson said ratepayers would save more than $20 million in elected member allowances and at least $30 million in chief executive packages over the next 10 years through the council amalgamations.

Under the framework, the Burswood Peninsula will become part of the new City of South Park, rather than the City of Perth as initially proposed by the state government.

The new South Park council will collect rates from Crown resort, but the state government will retain planning and development authority over the peninsula.

Three of the changes will be affected by voluntary amalgamations, including the merger of the City of South Perth and the Town of Victoria Park into the City of South Park, but under the existing Local Government Act, it will be possible for local constituents to trigger a referendum.

Such a referendum requires a ‘no’ vote from a majority of all eligible voters to fail, in effect meaning that an abstention is a vote in favour.

Because of this provision, Mr Simpson said the three voluntary amalgamations were likely to pass.

The Town of East Fremantle will join the City of Fremantle and the City of Kwinana will merge with the City of Cockburn under the same provisions.

Mr Simpson rejected the recommendation to create a new City of Riversea by merging five western suburbs councils – Nedlands, Claremont, Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove – but said the government agreed with a merger in principle.

Mr Simpson said the recommendation was rejected because the government would legislate to include the eastern portion of the new council under The City of Perth, and he expected that after a further submission process, the LGAB would again recommend a merger of the five councils.

Such a recommendation would then be approved.

“The state government is in very strong support of the board’s recommendation for an amalgamation of those five western suburbs councils, particularly given the report clearly demonstrates the benefits of fewer western suburbs councils,” Mr Simpson said.

Other recommendations in the report include joining the City of Swan and Shire of Mundaring, adding the Town of Bassendean to the City of Bayswater, adding the Shire of Kalamunda to the City of Belmont, and merging the City of Subiaco and the Town of Cambridge, all of which will be achieved by boundary adjustments, to be signed by the governor later today.

The north portion of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale will be added to the City of Armadale, while the southern portion will be added to the Shire of Murray, while the cities of Stirling and Melville will be modified, and the City of Canning will become part of the City of Gosnells.

These adjustments will be law from July 1 2015, Mr Simpson said.

The cities of Joondalup, Rockingham and Wanneroo will not be affected by the recommended boundary changes.

Mr Barnett said the report provided a clear direction for the most significant local government reform in 100 years.

“People in the metropolitan area can clearly see how this process will affect them and the local government authority in which they will live,” he said.

Mr Barnett said the changes reflected the will of the silent majority, who wanted the government to “get on with it”, but there was no plan in this term of government to merge councils in regional areas.

The he also responded to suggestions he had broken an election promise not to force amalgamations.

“Well we haven’t forced one have we? We haven’t,” Mr Barnett said.

Today's announcement has been roundly applauded by business representative groups, with Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Deidre Willmott hailing it as an important step that would help improve the efficiency of the third tier of government in the metropolitan area.

"Business now looks forward to real improvements in planning and approvals process that are currently costly, protracted and often inconsistent across different jurisdictions," Ms Wilmott said.

Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said it was important for the development industry that most of the local government boundaries remained the same through the amalgamation process.

However, she raised concerns about the impact of the proposed boundary amendments.

"Developer contribution schemes and other planning instruments can be difficult to unpack so we are pleased that many of the changes are amalgamations rather than adjustments to the boundaries themselves," Ms Goostrey said.

"This will make implementation easier for both industry and local government.

"The challenge going forward will be the blending of policies and procedures and ensuring that a positive culture emerges during a time of upheaval."

Local Government Managers Australia chief executive Warren Pearce, the body that represents many of the executives in existing councils, said there was considerable doubt about reforms to Perth, Vincent and the western suburbs.

“There is still a real question over whether the State Government will be able to deliver on its newly proposed City of Perth Act, and how they will proceed with the merger of the Western Suburbs Councils," he said.

Mr Pearce was also critical that some communities would be able to take a vote on the process, while others would not.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said he was unsure why ratepayers in some areas would get a vote on the mergers while others would not.

“The experience across Australia has shown that forced mergers and changes lead to an increase in rates," he said.

“The Barnett government’s forced amalgamations process has been a confused mess of uncertainty, instability and waste.”

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