COLIN BARNETT’S council merger dream is turning into a nightmare in the southern suburbs, with Kwinana in open revolt and East Fremantle gathering the required number of signatures to trigger a poll of residents.
On Tuesday Kwinana council officially withdrew from a voluntary merger with Cockburn and threw $50,000 into a fighting fund to rally its residents into voting against the process.
Kwinana mayor Carol Adams blames the government’s insistence on ditching wards, and a lack of funds to support the mergers, as her council’s primary reasons for its new-found opposition.
“We had been quite strong supporters of democratic, sensible and long-term reform which was funded by the state government,” she told the Herald. “But instead we’ve been given a merger which is set to seriously weaken Kwinana’s voice and its ability to have a say on the future council.”
For a referendum to be valid 51 per cent of the enrolled population must vote and, to win, more than half those must vote against the merger.
It’s a mammoth task. Cockburn west ward councillor Lyndsey Wetton warns that if Kwinana does succeed, Hamilton Hill and North Coogee are still odds-on to end up in Fremantle.
That’s because the northern change is a boundary readjustment—not a merger—so there’s no capacity for residents to force a referendum.
Sentiments ran high at a meeting of the Hamilton Hill Community Group at the prospect of Hamilton Hill becoming part of Fremantle, and residents didn’t hold back with their disdain for the port city council.
Some said friends in Fremantle never stopped complaining about their council, while they only had good things to say about Cockburn.
And they were aghast that Manning Park is to be carved out of the suburb to remain with Cockburn post-merger. Group chair Maureen Fisher-Sim says the park is the suburb’s only natural feature.
“We don’t have a King’s Park, we don’t have an Ayer’s Rock—that’s our great natural attraction,” she told the nodding heads.
“I don’t think that our area would be a priority for Fremantle, I think they view us as a bit of a backwater area, full of bogans.”
Jan De Groote was talking secession; she says Cockburn council’s been incredibly supportive of the group, and offers services like carers’ support, while Fremantle has closed its seniors centre.
“You get the impression they are choosing us for the income, rather than saying we are so vibrant come and join us,” Ms De Groote said to applause.
by STEVE GRANT