THERE has been a lot of commentary about the changes to the WA planning process, with the McGowan government reducing the power of local councils to control what they want built in their cities.
Some people say that we might as well get rid of local governments altogether, while others believe the new planning laws could be the slow death of LGAs.
I support local government reform, and wished the Barnett government had succeeded with getting small councils to amalgamate, but that was unfortunately not to be.
Streamlining of development applications could be a good thing, and councils definitely need to keep up with the modern world and review their planning schemes often.
Too often councils reject urban infill because that should happen somewhere else.
Local councils should be part of the bigger picture and acknowledge that the urban sprawl is not sustainable.
It is our responsibility to change that, and that means also accepting more multi-storey residential development in older suburbs.
New development on the outskirts should also cater for highrise, not just leave it to urban infill.
Clear felling needs to become something of the past. There is no need to create deserts on the periphery of Perth, so that developers can cram in as many family homes as possible.
Fear of change often stops the approval of substantial development.
That is difficult to address for local councils and the state government.
There is a sense of comfort for many when things stay the same, when your street or suburb is more or less like it was twenty years ago. It gives one a sense of belonging.
There is also fear in the community that proposed change might not work, so what then.Shall we stop progress because it might fail now and then?
Change requires being brave and open-minded and it requires us to be pragmatic about the reality that nothing stays the same, and that everything changes all the time.
Just try to remember the time before computers and mobile phones and see how much our lives have changed.
Local councils need to be open to change, but also aware of what the changes will mean for their communities, and we probably need to allow for even more specific planning schemes for smaller areas, as Fremantle council’s PSA 49 has done.
The current debate about the proposals for very high buildings in North Fremantle is such a case. There is no doubt that the town centre needs to be protected and the area from Harvest Street to Rule Street, where there are so many lovely streets and great houses, but should that still apply as far away as McCabe Street?
Should we not talk about more specific pockets, instead of saying we need to protect North Freo?
By the way, I do not believe the former Matilda Bay brewery development should go ahead. It is too bulky and too high and not good development.
Having said all that, we need to start speaking up now and make our politicians aware that we will not accept the scrapping of local councils. Our voices need to be heard and grassroots local government is best to do that.
Local government is like a teenager: It is opinionated, aggressive, self-centred and controversial.
It’s the way we grow up and learn to stand up for ourselves.
Change is happening as we speak. Not all change is good, but most change is necessary to allow for progress and growth.
Not accepting change in our communities is akin to not wanting your cute baby to grow old, because (s)he is just so perfect right now.
And as we know, most cute babies grow up to be wonderful mature human beings, ………..or grumpy old pr…s, like I am.