COUNCIL SURVEYS

Freo back on track
FREMANTLE council continues to win back the trust of its ratepayers, with its latest community survey showing a small but steady rise across most categories; a few finally out of the doldrums.

While the council’s vision for the city still hasn’t cracked the half-way mark in voters’ minds, it’s comfortably above the industry average and almost 20 per cent better than it was 10 years ago. Residents generally feel better led, but the Australia Day debate erased recent gains in whether the community felt its needs were understood.

There was only one industry leader to brag about, with the Fremantle Arts Centre voted the best of its kind amongst the 47 councils that participate in the bi-annual Catalyse surveys.

• Adopting its urban forest strategy has given the council’s environmental cred a boost in the minds of ratepayers according to the latest community survey. So far this year 500 trees have gone into streets and parks and 1000 in bush reserves around the city. Mayor Brad Pettitt, who was out helping contractors Josh and Matt Hall put a few more out along Commercial Street, South Fremantle, this week, says there’s also been 20,000 shrubs and bushes planted around Booyeembara Park and other reserves like Hollis Park. “This winter was a record,” Dr Pettitt said. He says residents have their own opportunity to back up the council’s planting by revamping their verges under a new council policy. The council will rip out the grass, chuck in some mulch and provide subsidised native plants for them, and has squirrelled away $50,000 in this year’s budget for the program.

And for fairly obvious reasons the council was marked down on its economic development, which has slipped from a rating of 51 in 2010 to this year’s 37 on the back of empty streets and closed shops. That’s well below most other councils and could take a few years and the completion of Kings Square to recover.

Youth, seniors, families and disability services were close to long-term averages, while the city’s library and its festivals had their best score in a decade.

Punters had also noticed the town hall’s new shine, helping give the council a 10-point rise for its protection and promotion of heritage.

But parking remains the bugbear.

“It’s like a parallel universe living here … inappropriate and illegal behaviour is more accepted, tolerated or overlooked than running late at the parking meter,” wrote one respondent.

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Trees, please
COCKBURNITES are generally happy living in their southern suburbs idyll, but really want their council to sort out the traffic and plant more trees.

Cockburn’s survey shows it’s tracking steadily in the top tier of councils, and leading the way in customer service, economic development, how the town centre (Cockburn Central) is developing and how the community is informed.

Nearly a third of respondents were unhappy with how the council has managed traffic, although it was a blip above what it scored last time around.

“Traffic congestion along all main east-west roads with roads around Cockburn Central a priority,” wrote one.

A whopping 80 per cent wanted more trees.

“More trees – especially along boulevards and main roads. The trees should be of the variety that have a foliage to offer shelter to birds and are pleasing to look at,” commented a resident, while others wanted more effort to sort out unkempt verges.

There was a persistent theme in comments that some of the older suburbs felt they’d been getting less love than glossy new Cockburn Central.

But the council scored well for its leadership, 13 per cent above the industry standard for several categories and a hefty 21 per cent above for its “vision”.

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East is Eden
MEANWHILE, East Fremantle is one of the best places in WA to live, according to its community survey, though its mayor and councillors are a bit out of touch.

The tiny municipality, which was slated to disappear under every possible scenario of the Barnett government’s failed council merger push, scored a mark of 89 from locals as a place to live, just one point off taking top position of the councils that participate in the surveys.

Most residents value their proximity to the river, ocean and big brother Fremantle: “I love living so close to the river, and the proliferation of small bars and eateries,” gushed one happy resident.

CEO troubles
However, the council barely scraped by with a pass for the value residents get from their rates and leadership, which perhaps reflects on troubles they’ve had with CEOs over the last two years.

Only 5 per cent of residents strongly agreed that their elected representatives understood their needs, while a whopping 45 per cent just couldn’t make up their mind. That gave the council a mark almost half of the state’s best-performing council.

That feeling carried over to staff, who were also seen generally to be out of touch.

Respondents to the survey were happier about the development of the George Street precinct than the town centre, but want the council to get on with developing East Fremantle Oval. “There has been at least two studies completed with public consultation in relation to the oval … get on with, stop procrastinating, we do not need another study,” wrote one.  “It is an eyesore, needs upgrading – look at Claremont Oval,” wrote another.

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