People take power

COCKBURN’S merger cock-up has seen local community leaders taking up arms to fight for the city’s survival.

They will make a fresh submission to the local government advisory board this week.

Former councillor Tony Romano, chosen as one of four community members compiling the new submission, says it will go back to the original merger plan: Joining Cockburn and Kwinana along their current borders, with the exception of Leeming, which gets carved out to Melville.

“The council had its chance, now it’s the community’s turn,” Mr Romano says.

Cr Bart Houwen says the emergence of a community-led submission is a slap in the face for the council, whose job it is to represent the community, not the other way around.

“It takes away what council is doing,” he concedes, adding he is also disappointed with the naked aggression of neighbouring councils, slavering at the prospect of dividing Cockburn between them.

“Cockburn has not tried to take away anything from the other councils. It is simplistic to think the councils’ issues can be addressed by the takeover of land in Cockburn. It is not the panacea they are looking for.”


Cr Houwen describes the situation as “terrible”. He’d contacted the Herald to say he was not one of the five councillors who’d backflipped on an agreement to merge with Kwinana, led by Cr Kevin Allen, as we’d reported last week (the fifth was actually now-retired Val Oliver).

The others were new deputy mayor Carol Reeve-Fowkes and councillors Yaz Mubarakai and Lee-Anne Smith—all of whom backflipped a second time when the council then voted to support the merger. But by then it was too late—Kwinana had decided to submit its own grand plan, which the government has taken on board holus bolus.


“Cockburn council’s surprising backflip provided Kwinana with the unexpected opportunity of looking closely at both Fremantle and Melville’s proposals,” Kwinana mayor Carol Adams says.

“Southern Cockburn residents have nothing to fear whatsoever from the reform process. The City of Kwinana is a very community-minded and best-practice council.”

Cr Houwen practically groans: “Kevin’s a good friend of mine, he knows he stuffed up, but he hasn’t admitted it.”

Texting from Singapore, Cr Allen says he doesn’t regret the initial five-four decision to reject the merger.

Best interests

“Nothing could be further from the truth. I have only ever acted in the best interests of Cockburn ratepayers and will continue to do so, as opposed to the minister who has sold Cockburn down the creek.”

He says ratepayers deserved to be polled on the question: “This is still my position. We are large enough to remain an entity as we are.”

But the councils of Kwinana, Fremantle and Melville have issued a statement praising their proposed new boundaries as a “big win”. The new boundaries are, says Ms Adams, “logical and would result in financially robust councils with a fair mix of rate revenue”.

“Ensuring a smooth transition for residents will be a major priority for all affected councils,” she says.

“So I’m very pleased Melville, Fremantle, East Fremantle and Kwinana will be sharing information on community programs, financial models and capital works projects.”

Cockburn doesn’t rate a mention.


$44m short?

FREMANTLE, Melville and Kwinana may end up sharing a $44 million funding shortfall if they split the City of Cockburn between them.
That’s because they don’t have developer contribution schemes written into their local laws, while Cockburn does. If Cockburn dies, so do the contributions: “The current model for all of the $195 million of projects to be completed over the next 10 years would see $75 million collected in development  contribution,” says Cockburn CEO Stephen Cain. “Disaggregating Cockburn punches a hole in this model, potentially up to $44 million. This shortfall would become a liability for the communities where each of these projects are located.”


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