URBNSURF has won an extension to develop a wave park in Alfred Cove.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, Melville council agreed to push back the start date for the project, but only after five councillors walked out.
The five, Katy Mair, Nick Pazolli, June Barton, Karen Wheatland and Steve Keppert, declared a financial interest in the item after being told by the city’s lawyers they could be held personally liable if they voted to break the lease.
Cr Mair told the Herald later the legal advice had loomed like a threat over the decision.
“Whether [Urbnsurf] could sue us under the act I am not sure, but none of us felt confident and we declared a financial interest and left the chamber,” Cr Mair said.
Cr Pazolli said he also felt “under duress” about the vote and didn’t believe that was a tenable way to make decision.
“We should have have been able to select our own legal advice,” he said, arguing the lawyers were paid to represent the city’s point of view.
Cr Pazolli said the five were hoping to get a meeting with local government minister David Templeman to lobby for a change to the Local Government Act to prevent councillors facing this dilemma in the future.
Prior to the meeting mayor Russell Aubrey had foreshadowed the threat to councillors, a move criticised by Cr Pazolli as adding further pressure to the councillors.
In a posting on social media site Melville Community Chat, he said both the council and Urbnsurf had failed to meet their deadlines, stressing; “neither party is at fault”.
“It appears to me that if elected members fail to extend the progress times then there will be considerable financial and commercial cost to the city and potentially to individual elected members,” Mr Aubrey posted.
Meanwhile the Swan Estuary Reserves Action Group delivered a 1100-signature to state parliament this week urging planning minister Rita Saffioti to reject the sale of a parcel of land needed for the wave park.
The council needs to purchase or be gifted the land to have enough room to fit the wave park on Tompkins Reserves.
SERAG argues the land had already been earmarked in a management plan to be included in the Alfred Cove nature reserve as a buffer.
by STEVE GRANT