MELVILLE’S community is celebrating an amazing win this week, with WA planning minister Rita Saffioti backflipping and promising to permanently protect 13 local parks.
Ms Saffioti has told Melville council it can now amend its planning scheme to enshrine the state-owned reserves, which were formerly zoned “residential”, as “public open space”, despite a letter in January saying they had to be left alone.
The issue goes back to 2016, when nine green spaces were quietly rezoned during an update of Melville’s planning scheme. It came to light when an aged care facility tried to buy one, and while that was kyboshed, it sparked a review that uncovered another 12 parklands earmarked for residential development before the scheme update.
In March 2020 the council tried to have the lot turned back to permanent park, but on the recommendation of a planning department staffer under delegation, Ms Saffioti would only allow the council to change the reserves it owned.
outraged the local community; the Chook got more comments, questions and spontaneous rants about the parks than any issue in years while protest groups sprang up around reserves such as Lou Withers where residents faced losing their park and gaining nearby 12-storey apartment towers.
Bateman MLA Kim Giddens and Bicton MLA Lisa O’Malley took the issue up with Ms Saffioti, a Labor colleague, raising the issue in Parliament’s question time and meeting her on behalf of the community.
Ms O’Malley singled out residents Marina Hansen and Jill Bowman as “local champions” who galvanised the community into action.
“Working with community to achieve great outcomes like this is what it’s all about,” she said.
Ms Giddens was similarly pleased with the outcome.
“This is a great example of what can be achieved when the community and their local representative work together,” she said.
“I’m delighted to achieve this outcome on behalf of our community.”
Melville councillor Katy Mair was one of the first to raise the alarm; her story on the Herald’s front page shortly after Ms Saffioti’s decision was the first many in the community new about the threat to their green spaces.
Cr Mair hoped there’d be park parties around the city to celebrate the turnaround.
“A huge big thank you to the community for all their petitions and emails to the minister,” Cr Mair said.
“Also a big thank you to our two members of Parliament, Kim Giddens and Lisa O’Malley, for supporting the community in achieving their rezoning goal.
“There is still a process to go through to get the rezoning done but this is such great news for the community.
Her colleague Karen Wheatland told the Herald the residents “couldn’t believe it when we got the news”.
Cr Wheatland said the deciding factor had been the advocacy of day-time boss Ms Giddens and Ms O’Malley saying “without them it might not have happened”.
“Its an incredible win for the community and everyone,” Cr Wheatland said.
“It’s a team effort lead by the community, taken up by the local government and implemented by the state government.”