Perth councils divided over Barnett’s boundary overhaul

By Paul Hemsley

An ambitious and controversial bid to overhaul Perth’s metropolitan local government areas by Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has triggered widely differing reactions from councils targeted to have their boundaries radically redrawn.

Formally revealed this week, Mr Barnett’s plan will slash the number of Perth-based councils from 30 to 15 and has been lodged as a formal submission for preferred boundary changes with the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB).

Mr Barnett’s planned aggregation of councils is being sold to the electorate as a “strengthening” of local governments to help better cope with the Perth’s population growth.

Although the centrepiece of the plan is the City of Perth’s expansion into the City of Vincent, the wider plan will result in the expansion of boundaries of councils including the City of Fremantle and the City of Melville, while still keeping them as separate entities.

The amalgamation of seven councils into one and the changing of boundaries between other several other local governments are also contained in a raft of proposed changes to Perth’s metropolitan area.

Predictably, not everyone is happy and there are already warnings of of potential rate rises and financial losses including the

City of Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett warned that the state government’s submission to the LGAB seeks to “carve up Cockburn’s assets” and give “the spoils to surrounding local governments”.

“If the government’s changes go through, there will be substantial rates increases of up to 15 per cent with businesses that fall under Kwinana set to pay around 10 per cent more in their rates,” Mr Howlett said.

The City of Stirling wasn’t pleased either. Mayor Giovanni Italiano is warning that the impact of a potential boundary change will be a loss of 15 per cent across the board and a net impact of $30 million annually.

However the City of Fremantle, which will grow, welcomed the boundary expansion as an underpinning of the City’s long-term sustainable growth.

With the potential for conflict between usually united local governments, the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) has called for calm among the angry councils, warning that divisions will need to be “quickly overcome” for the benefit of communities.

WALGA President Troy Pickard said the diversity of opinions from councils to the announcement was understandable but urged elected members not to put at risk their role in the process in representing the interests of their communities.

WALGA recognised that many councils felt their needs were not heard by the state government, but Mr Pickard said that the proposed boundaries were in “no way a fait accompli”.

He said that it is now up to the LGAB to consider both the state government and local government sector’s submissions in making their recommendations.

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