Freo's View

THE AMALGAMATION DEBATE THE TWO FREOS NEED TO HAVE

Posted in amalgamation, fremantle, local governmet, merger, town of east fremantle by freoview on January 20, 2015

Fremantle Council will only sit six more times before a Commissioner takes over to implement the amalgamation with East Fremantle-unless the East Fremantle Dadour Act vote on February 7 does get the required 50% of votes against a council merger. This means the Fremantle community needs to start being pro-active and have a conversation about what type of new Councillors we want here, as the supersized new City of Fremantle will not only bring new boundaries but also new challenges for our Elected Members.

How satisfied have YOU been with the performance of the individual Councillors, who are the ones you want to get rid off, and who would you like to continue on Fremantle Council? Who in our community could be possible candidates and how will we convince them to nominate for Council at the next election? Who are the real community leaders who actually listen to us, instead of the tokenism community consultation has become in Fremantle? Who would we like to step up and come forward to represent us?

These are very important questions that need to be debated. We have quite a few sitting members who have been unopposed for years and there is huge dissatisfaction in the community about the consultation process and inconsistent decision-making, as well as with parts of the administration.

Fremantle needs to grow and improve but to do so we need a Council of realists who have real and achievable visions and who are not constraint by ideology and blinkered views.

The only way forward for Fremantle is to start fresh and to not let the slogan “Let’s Finish What We Started” sway us that we need to keep the present mob in power. My personal overall rating of Fremantle Council over the last four years is DISAPPOINTING, INCONSISTENT, BAD HEARING.

Here are some thoughts from East Fremantle Councillor Michael McPhail on the amalgamation:

The decision on February will present the option of merging the Town of East Fremantle (7000 residents) with a new City of Fremantle that will double in size to 66,000 residents (taking in areas that generate significant rates to the south and east).

The most significant event that is to happen to our community in the next decade will be the construction of the Perth Freight Link, a six-lane freight freeway from Kewdale to Stirling Bridge. This new freeway will lead to a doubling of port freight (and carcinogens) through our suburb in the next decade, as well as removal of Marmion Street access from Stirling Hwy.

 A number of academics have proposed models of local government reform that are far more nuanced and thoughtful than the options we have on the table for February 7.

I lament that the State Government ran a process that would make a flock of ostriches proud. Indeed, this seems the standard approach by all State Governments when they discuss local government ‘reform’. The hope of getting a more enlightened set of options to choose from is as low as Colin Barnett’s approval rating.

 If both very large and very small local governments have issues with remaining accountable, I would suggest there is a sweet spot in the middle. At 66,000 people, the new City of Fremantle would be the third smallest local government in Perth (post-amalgamation).

In my view, this is the Goldilocks size: not too large, not too small, but just about right.

 The decision we (East Fremantle) have to make on February 7 is not whether the current structure served East Fremantle well over the last 120 years, but whether it will serve us well over the next 120 years. This is not an easy question to answer and people will have different opinions. However, I wanted to highlight that the answer to this question requires far more thought that some would have you believe.

 Forming the Municipality of East Fremantle made a lot of sense 118 years ago and served our suburb reasonably well for the 20th century. However, I do think the challenges that face our suburb are becoming and will be far more advanced and substantial than our little local government was designed for. Significant change is always difficult to back. It requires stepping outside your comfort zone and relying on vision rather than history. However, when I ask the question: will our current structure be the best structure for the next 118 years? I can only but answer no.

Roel Loopers

 

 

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