PACHAMAMA Early Education and Childcare has had an application to increase child numbers and operating hours approved at a special Kalamunda council meeting on Monday night, despite staff objections that moved supporters of the controversial centre to tears.
The staff recommendation to refuse the increase was overturned by an alternative recommendation by councillor Tracy Destree, ultimately winning with unanimous council support and applause from the gallery.
The approval allows for an increase of 10 to 43 children at 61 Coolinga Rd and 47 to 69 children at the centre’s adjacent site at 36 Marri Crescent and an extension of hours from 7am-6pm to 6.30am-6.30pm.
Pachamama director Kristen McPhail has been operating with the increased numbers since 2014, unaware that her state approvals also needed approval at local government level.
“It appears that I was wrong,” she said during a deputation.
“And for that I am sorry.
“It has not been my intention to create problems but rather only to provide the community with what it needs, and continues to need which is quality childcare to allow parents to work and children to grow and thrive in a nature-based environment.”
The staff recommendation for refusal said intensified use and traffic movements of the Lesmurdie properties would impact on the amenity of the residential locality.
Mrs McPhail’s lawyer, planning and traffic consultants and independent town planners attended the meeting to discuss parking, traffic and associated child safety and amenity concerns.
Cr Destree’s alternative supportive motion also included 10 conditions for revised landscaping, bushfire management, parking and manoeuvring plans to help alleviate staff concerns.
“We need to be able to come to workable solutions and work together as community and administration to solve some of these awkward problems we find ourselves in,” she said.
“The operator has given that commitment tonight that these changes will be made.”
Kalamunda resident and shift worker Kristy Bennett choked back tears during her deputation.
“Child care places are very scarce here,” she said.
“The nearest other centre who achieves the same standard is in Roleystone.
“We are so worried as a family of the outcome of tonight’s council meeting.
“If this centre reduces its intake or closes, I genuinely don’t know what we will do.”
Kalamunda Ratepayers Association secretary and Coolinga Rd resident, Ron Davy spoke against the approval.
Before council voted, deputy mayor Dylan O’Connor read a statement on behalf of Mayor John Giardina, who was unwell.
“This council must make it clear that it does not stand responsible to correct any community angst or loss of service that may result from a providers unapproved facility,” he said.
“Nor should council been seen responsible for the erosion of child care services where that service had not already been approved.”
He said the safety of children exceeded any proposed commercial need or demographic requirement for increased child care facilities.
The City and Pachamama are currently in the middle of a dispute over a third additional lot for child care use at 59 Coolinga Rd, which the City refused in May 2017.
In a controversial move, the City appealed against a State Administrative Tribunal decision to overrule the council and allow the property to change its use from residential to child care.
The change of use was conditional to the retrospective approval of 61 Coolinga Rd and 36 Marri Crescent.
The City’s appeal against the State Administrative Tribunal decision is ongoing.
By Claire Ottaviano