Freo's View

UNWANTED STATE INTERFERENCE WITH LOCAL DEMOCRACY

Posted in fremantle, local government, state government, western australia by freoview on August 7, 2015

One has to wonder about W.A. Premier Colin Barnett’s expressed desire to “Just fix local governments up” and get more involved with them, as State interference could mean a serious erosion of democracy at local council level.

Is there a need for it or is Barnett just having a fit of sour grapes because of community and councils opposition to the DAP(Development Assessment Panel) that simply rubber stamps over 90% of development applications, many against the will of Local Governments and communities?

Maybe the Premier is still irate about the failed Local Government Reform and council amalgamations, which he and Minister Tony Simpson so disgracefully messed up.

Some Council reform and amalgamations might be needed, as is a control on rate rises, and I quite agree that a CEO running a small Council administration should not be earning as much as a Minister, but does that warrant strong, democracy threatening, action by the State?

Local Government is the closest form of democracy. It is hands on and the community has the opportunity for easy access to its elected members, so any form of interference from State Government should be viewed with suspicion about the real reasons.

Maybe the Premier does not like it that, as he called it, we bite the hand that feeds us, and pipe up against the inadequately  and amateurishly planned Perth Freight Link that will be a disaster for some southern suburbs including Fremantle. Maybe Colin Barnett believes democracy is simply a waste of time and we should allow him to squander taxpayers’s money. Maybe the Emperor even believes there is nothing wrong with building a new train station that will only operate on match days near the new football stadium. Maybe we should all just shut up because our divine leader knows what’s good for us.

Democracy, dear Premier, is listening to what the people want, not dictate to them what you want. If you no longer want to represent the community it might be best to step down or have an early election, so we can show you what we think of the shambles you have made of democracy in this state.

Roel Loopers

SOUR GRAPES STATE GOVERNANCE IMPACTS COMMUNITY LIFESTYLE

Posted in fremantle, local government, state government, western australia by freoview on April 24, 2015

Local Governments will be punished for the W.A. State Government messing up its own local government reform process and the community will be paying for it by losing more planning control over what can be built in their cities.

Planning Minister John Day has announced the State has lowered the threshold for builders so they can go to the Development Assessment Panel and bypass local councils if the development is $ 2 million plus. Previously that had to be a $ 3 million dollar project.

This severely limits the input the community can have on what they like or dislike as far as new development is concerned because there are only 2 members representing local council on the six member panel, so they are outnumbered by state bureaucrats.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson is quoted in the POST newspaper as having said at a Bunbury Chamber of Commerce  and Industry lunch that “If you don’t go on the journey with us…..you’ll wake up one day and you’ll be putting a smiley face on every application to say you have looked at it but have no power to deal with it”

It was very disappointing that the Town of East Fremantle residents did not want to go on the amalgamation journey with the City of Fremantle, but at the end State Government created the shambles, but now punishes all local governments for the disaster they should blame themselves for. Sour grapes is not good governance Premier Colin Barnett!

Roel Loopers

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FREMANTLE CEO’S THOUGHTS ON AMALGAMATION PROCESS

Posted in amalgamation, city of fremantle, local government by freoview on March 24, 2015

City of Fremantle CEO Graeme McKenzie has sent me an article he wrote about council amalgamation and while it now is water under the bridge, I believe it is still relevant to read the thoughts of Freo’s CEO about it. It’s a bit too long for a blog post but worth reading:

The elector polls are now done and dusted and several council amalgamations have effectively been blocked. This includes the proposed amalgamation of East Fremantle and Fremantle. I made some public comments earlier this week that some people found contradictory so wanted to explain myself in a little more detail.

The confusion lay in the fact that I firstly outlined what a missed opportunity this was for East Fremantle residents and the region in general. I then went on to say how much the process was flawed. Many took that as contradictory, but it isn’t.

There is a very big difference between a confused process and what I think would be very clear benefits once the merger had occurred…let me explain.

Yes it was a flawed process – no question

The process has been shambolic to say the least – how can the government allow eight mergers through boundary adjustments, denying those communities a say in their futures while allowing three mergers to proceed under amalgamation rules which provide for a poll?

How can large local governments like Canning be boundary adjusted out of existence while a council the size of East Fremantle is allowed a vote?  Surely the people making the decisions would have realised that East Fremantle had every chance of mobilising their relatively small community to reach the required vote to overturn the government’s plans? Surely, as a matter of equity and fairness, it should have been all boundary adjustments or all amalgamations.

I did say that I respect the vote, but the process the government undertook for this reform has failed dismally – a point the Premier acknowledged this week in the media.

But the benefits achieved could have been significant

The outcome that could have been achieved from this amalgamation is a totally different matter.  For me, council reform has always been about the capacity to deliver services and facilities to our community.  This was also the government’s rationale but wasn’t explained well enough by them.

Let me put it as simply as I can.  East Fremantle has a budget of about $8 million of which about $6.5 million might be untied (that is it can be used however the council sees fit).  Fremantle has a budget of $90 million of which about $60 million is untied.

A generally accepted benchmark is that a council should have about 30% of its untied revenue available for capital works or new initiatives each year.  That gives East Fremantle about $2 million to spend each year on major maintenance, upgrade or replacement of facilities, parks, roads, footpaths, foreshores etc compared to Fremantle that can spend around $18 million each year on capital and new initiatives.

On its own, that differential allows Fremantle to undertake more and larger projects for the community.  Add to that the ability to leverage significant grants from both state and federal government from $18 million compared to $2 million.  And add to that again the ability to borrow significantly more (in gross terms) and you start to get an understanding of what capacity means.

I often give the extreme example of the Gold Coast City Council in Queensland.  It has a budget of $1.5 billion of which over $500 million is untied and available for capital projects and new initiatives.  It was able to leverage $800 million from the federal government for a light rail system down the coast with a contribution of $200 million of its own funds.  It was also able to build eight new libraries and completely refurbish its five existing libraries in just 11 years.

I don’t support a Queensland model here in WA, but you really understand capacity when you look at that example. Under the reform that was proposed, the larger City of Fremantle would have doubled its population and added about a third to its budget. This would have increased the opportunity to provide significant new or upgraded infrastructure for the community – with this I mean major capital programs that can really enrich people’s lives.

There are clearly efficiencies to be gained from larger local governments although this does need to be weighed up against local democracy, hence one of the reasons I don’t support the Queensland model of local government for WA.  Those efficiencies of scale were achievable under the Fremantle proposal, but with the outcome of the poll, both the efficiency and capability benefits have now been lost – for a while at least.

I do expect sometime in the not too distant future there will be another crack at council reform by a state government, but maybe next time we’ll end up with a different approach.  I fear that given what’s happened this time around, the new approach won’t be consultative.

Graeme McKenzie-CEO City of Fremantle

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WHO WANTS TO BE A FREO COUNCILLOR?

Posted in city of fremantle, local governmet by freoview on February 26, 2015

With the disappointing demise of local government reform and the regular criticism by residents of local councils I believe it is a good time for Fremantle community groups to start collaborating to find the best possible candidates for Fremantle Council at the next election. We need to find passionate and suitable community members willing to step up and go into local government.

It would be positive and pro-active to try to find outstanding candidates who will strengthen and improve our Council to get better governance and a better performing administration. The community is often frustrated because it believes Council no longer communicates well and only listens selectively to its residents on many issues.

It is reasonable for the community to expect more than tokenism when it comes to community consultation, and it should not constantly have to complain about inadequate services, street cleaning, rubbish collection, the maintenance of beaches, parks, gardens playgrounds, and the protection of its amenity and assets. The community wanst the preservation of, and increase in, public open green spaces.

While law and order are State and Police responsibility the City of Fremantle can help with better lighting and keeping our city tidy and well looked after. The neglected look of some parts of Fremantle is unbecoming for a tourist destination and attracts anti-social behaviour.

Residents and business owners want a consistent Council that represents them and is not dictated by certain ideologies or political orientation; a Council that well understands and supports our struggling retailers; a Council that cares for all ages and acknowledges it needs to provide for the ageing population as well as a youth culture.

We want consistency in planning approval with less compromise; a Council that insists on high-quality development and rejects mediocrity, a Council that implements and adheres to its own Local Area Policies and Masterplans.

Freo residents want a Council that delivers quality services and that is pro community more than it is pro developers. Community groups should be positive players and part of the solutions for our city. They are not a negative force whose protests prolong inevitable council-desired outcomes. We want a Council that protects our unique lifestyle and heritage and that better balances community wishes and needs with necessary economic development. Better and respectful communication will create better collaboration and best outcomes for all.

So who are the individuals needed to stand for office at the October election? Who are the outstanding community members we should ask to give new energy and expertise to Fremantle Council? I believe this is a conversation the Freo community needs to have well ahead of the next Local Government election in October. This way suitable, open-minded, non-aligned candidates might be found who will contest seats against some of the present Councillors. It is not good democracy (and not in the best interest of the Fremantle community) to have uncontested wards at elections and we need to make sure we have candidates to contest every seat for Fremantle Council. We want the very best for Fremantle and the community believes there is scope for improvement at every level.

So what about organising a public meeting on this in the near future to find people willing to step up and stand for Council at the next election? The call for community representation-instead of political representation-at Councils is very strong all over Perth and should be noted and embraced. The recent high participation in the Dadour poll on amalgamation shows that communities deeply care about their cities.

With new development and higher density under way new residents and ratepayers are coming into the Fremantle municipality. They will have issues and priorities and a public forum would give them a chance to connect with their new community, voice their opinion and suggest candidates.

Let the search for outstanding candidates begin. Put your hands up!

Roel Loopers

P.S. It is my understanding the contract for Fremantle’s CEO Graeme McKenzie is nearing its end. Will Council advertise the position and look for alternative candidates for the important position or simply extend McKenzie’s contract?

PREMIER BARNETT’S CONTEMPT FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle, local government, state government, western australia by freoview on February 18, 2015

Colin's company

Dear Premier Colin Barnett,

I heard you say on ABC radio yesterday that you are not going to compensate Councils involved in the amalgamation reform process you initiated because they had run expensive NO campaigns against the proposals. We here in Fremantle did not oppose amalgamation but embraced it, with the condition that we would get the best possible boundaries for Fremantle and that we would amalgamate with East Fremantle instead of being swallowed up by Melville.

The City of Fremantle and the community-lead Fremantle Forever campaign were not against your reform but supported it. All we asked for were best outcome changes to our City’s boundaries.

Your government, dear Premier, messed up the process because of lack of community consultation prior to trying to implement the reform. To now blame Councils for its demise is childish to the extreme.

You expect the City of Fremantle-the ratepayers-to pay for the shambles you created and that shows how far remote you are from reality and facts. Like your Federal mate Tony Abbott and other so-called political leaders your arrogance is disproportionate to your governance.

What has your government ever done for Fremantle, Mister Barnett? When was the last time you visited our city? When will you stick to your promise of relocation a substantial government department to our city? When will you replace the old railway bridge and create modern, fast and safe container transport to the port instead of the ridiculous Roe Highway extension that will see huge traffic chaos and diesel pollution in North Fremantle?

Your Liberal party insulted the intelligence of Fremantle voters, and embarrassed your own party members, at the State, Federal and Mayoral elections by putting an ignorant and uninformed candidate, who has not even read Politics for Dummies, up against Melissa Parke, Simone McGurk and Brad Pettitt.

Your lack of care for Western Australia’s second city and major port and tourist destination is unbelievable and unacceptable!

Where is the State’s investment in Freo’s future, Premier? When will your government repair the neglected eyesore heritage-listed Warders Cottages in the centre of our city instead of building more monuments elsewhere to celebrate Your Emperor’s greatness?

The people of Fremantle deserve and demand State Government support. We do not deserve the contempt your treat our City with!

 You created the Local Government Reform mess. Now pay for it!!

 Roel Loopers

BIGGER FREMANTLE DUMPED BY PREMIER BARNETT

Posted in city of fremantle, local government by freoview on February 17, 2015

As expected the Council mergers as proposed by State Government will now also not go ahead, after the amalgamations fiasco where East Fremantle ratepayers rejected to become part of a bigger City of Fremantle, and Kwinana refused to go with Cockburn.

The suggested new boundaries would have seen Fremantle lose Samson but gain parts of Melville and Cockburn, but that has now also been scrapped.

Thank you for wasting our time and money Premier Colin Barnett, Minister Tony Simpson and the Local Government Advisory Board. You should all hang your head in shame about the unprofessional shambles you created. To blame individual Councils is pure hypocricy!

Roel Loopers

PREMIER BARNETT WANTS COUNCILS TO PAY FOR HIS BLUNDER

Posted in city of fremantle, local government, western australia by freoview on February 13, 2015

WA Premier Colin Barnett must live in a different world if he expects local councils to pay the costs of the blundered and failed local government reform that he insisted on and most councils rejected from the start. What the Premier is doing is akin to going to a supermarket and fill up a trolley to then expect the person behind one in the queue to pay for it. Ridiculous!

Instead of blaming himself, Minister Tony Simpson and the Local Government Advisory Board for the unmitigated disaster, Barnett now blames the Councils for the failure, when what the State should have done is consult the community before they embarked on the journey to nowhere.

The City of Fremantle worked very hard to get a better outcome and to not be merged with Melville. COF was positive and pro amalgamation but can now lick the costly wounds that cost our city nearly one million dollars. The City of Cockburn claims it cost them some $ 3 million.

Should Councils have to raise fees to pay for the amalgamation costs ratepayers will be outraged and blame their elected members for it, but the blame is solely on the State Government that messed up the reform process beyond belief. If anyone still believes in accountability heads should roll.

Roel Loopers

WE DON’T REALLY NEED EAST FREO ; > )

Posted in amalgamation, fremantle, heritage by freoview on February 9, 2015

Amalgamation gone, done and dusted, and it appears unlikely State Government will even go ahead with mergers, so let’s enjoy Fremantle’s unique beauty and simply try to improve what we’ve got and do things better.

Roel Loopers

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OFF TO THE SIMPSON DESERT, MINISTER!

Posted in amalgamation, democracy, fremantle by freoview on February 7, 2015

As anticipated residents of East Fremantle today rejected the amalgamation with Fremantle. From 5178 eligible voters 2145 voted no, 680 yes and 6 informal. The Dadour Act provided the democracy and community feed-back that should be essential for major government changes.

 If there is to be one consequence out of the shambles the so-called Western Australian local government reform has been it is the resignation of Local Government Minister Tony Simpson. It matters little that Simpson appears to be a nice bloke because the way the reform process has been handled was an unmitigated fiasco.

The Dadour Act election has shown how passionate-and parochial-people are about their councils, and that they were willing to forget all the previous criticism of those councils and the elected members and rather hold on to a far from perfect status quo than embrace reform and enlarged councils.

One of the major victims of the reform has been Subiaco that was swallowed up by the City of Vincent, but the purpose of the reform was to get rid of ineffective and expensive small councils like Peppermint Grove, Mosman Park, East Fremantle, etc. That has not been achieved because the democratic process showed a severe lack of community consultation before the government embarked on trying to force the amalgamations through.

Will Minister Simpson and Premier Colin Barnett now pull their head in and forget about local government reform, or will they try to merge East Fremantle with Melville and Fremantle with Cockburn? Stubbornness and stupidity are close friends!

The reform has been a shameful and unprofessional exercise in incompetence and heads should roll in the department. The process has set back councils by many months and halted development and planning and it wasted an enormous amount of time and money for councils to try to come to agreements about the future of the to be amalgamated cities. There will no doubt be a backlash from investors and developers who would have embraced larger councils in the hope for a more streamlined and faster planning process.

There were communities like Fremantle who were hopeful that local government reform would give them the chance to vote a whole new council in and start afresh with new energy, and the hope that better and more sincere community consultation might be the outcome. All over W.A. communities have been bitterly complaining about no longer being heard by their elected members.

Having said all that it was special to watch democracy at work and we should never underestimate what privilege it is. That also applies to local councils where a majority vote is required. There are always losers and winners in that process.

Roel Loopers

WHAT IF KINGS SQUARE’S PLAN B ALSO FAILS?

Posted in city of fremantle, development by freoview on February 5, 2015

It is very interesting to read the figures in the West Australian, provided by the Property Council, on the very high office vacancy rate of 14.8% in Perth and massive new development there putting out tens of thousands of square metres more in the near future. The West Perth office vacancy rate is also well over ten per cent, so where does that leave Fremantle and the Kings Square development that is starting to look more and more like an unachievable pipe dream.

It seems quite clear that Sirona Capital has not been able to sign up major anchor tenants for the former MYER building, and without that the Queensgate development won’t go ahead either. We still have not received a confirmed date on when the Kings Square development is happening and some sources say there is disquiet about it within Sirona and they are contemplating abandoning the project that Sirona claims is as extensive as the big Perth Treasury building project that took eight years to be completed.

There is also a ‘sunset clause’ in the contract with the City of Fremantle that allows both parties to pull out by the end of the year if development has not commenced. But what if that happened? Fremantle would be in serious limbo with the Kings Square development and it would be a huge set back for the economic and retail revitalisation of our city.

Sirona’s managing director Matthew NcNeilly told me there is a Plan B, and a Plan C, etc. but what are these plans and when will any of them be implemented? The indefinite waiting game and procrastination is holding back other development in Fremantle and it appears the City is powerless to force the issue and get a move on this vital CBD project.

The probable rejection of council amalgamation by the residents of East Fremantle is already a huge disappointment for Fremantle and Kings Square needs to happen for the COF to have any credibility with developers, investors and major retailers.

Roel Loopers

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