COLIN BARNETT has been told to stop dithering and get on with his plan to merge WA councils.
Cockburn mayor Logan Howlett says the continuing uncertainty over the premier’s timeline is distracting and wastes time, energy and money.
Mr Barnett has been saying for three years he wants metropolitan councils cut from 30 to 12.
WA local government minister Tony Simpson has now told mayors and CEOs of the South West Group, which include Cockburn and Fremantle, that mergers could still be two years away.
New local government boundaries could however be released in two months.
“It has occupied countless hours of elected members, staff and the community’s time for more than four years,” Mr Howlett says.
“The government’s response to the Robson report was timely and needed to happen sooner rather than later so that certainty for elected members, staff and the community was assured.”
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says talk of reform has been “dragging on longer than he’s been mayor”.
He left the meeting with the minister still uncertain about the LibNats’ plans.
“I hope that when the minister formally responds to the Robson report in the next two months that local governments have a clear sense of their future including who we are going to be amalgamated with and will the amalgamations be forced if one party is not keen,” Dr Pettitt says.
“Who is paying for the process? What is the timeline? When will the elected mayor and councillors be replaced by commissioners? None of these questions has been properly answered yet and the minister is still officially ‘ruling nothing in or out’ but the sense I have is that within 18 months commissioners will be brought in to replace mayors and councillors so these elections will be last for Fremantle as we currently know it.”
Dr Pettitt says Fremantle’s preferred option of extending its boundary to Stock Road was kyboshed.
He says Mr Simpson is only “willing to entertain either simple amalgamations or very minor changes to boundaries”.
“I think this is a lost opportunity for the kind of deeper reform to local government boundaries that Perth needed,” Dr Pettitt says.
“Simply merging existing councils is in my view a lost opportunity to redefine local government for the next 50 years with boundaries located around activity centres.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER