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Tony Riggio says voters in favour of industrialisation in Wattle Grove South just want to have their voices heard.

Yes voters put their case as debate gets nasty

THE fight over the potential rezoning of Wattle Grove South is intensifying, with residents in favour of the potential rezoning and redevelopment saying they have been cut out of the debate by what they describe as the intimidatory tactics of the ‘No’ vote bloc.

This comes as ‘No’ voters have forced a special council meeting to be held on Monday, with a motion put forward to scrap the City of Kalamunda’s consultative community committee of council, an effort to bring the two sides together, and permanently put a stop to any potential rezoning.

Tony Riggio has lived on Victoria Road in Wattle Grove South for 25 years and has witnessed first hand the tactics of the ‘No’ group.

He’s been making signs, as have the ‘No’ voters, but his are being stolen with alarming regularity.

He believes the area he lives in has stagnated, and would welcome a discussion about rezoning or redevelopment.

However he believes at least a section of the ‘No’ voters are engaged in a scare campaign and are not willing to come to the table.

“The first one that was stolen was actually returned to me by one of the ‘No’ campaigners who didn’t feel comfortable with what they had done,” he said.

“It’s pretty clear where it came from.

“If you want to introduce more people into the area, get more jobs happening, more retailers, more shops, then we need to move on the rezoning and get something moving.

“There’s the potential for enormous growth here that will benefit the whole community.

“I really get the impression that the ‘No’ side will do anything to shut down debate or even have a reasonable discussion with us.

“They’ve created a scare campaign amongst the community.

“In my view they’re saying that if the land is redeveloped, well you’ll have to go home and grab your gear and vacate.

“That’s the sort of pressure they’ve put on people and it’s disgraceful.

“A lot of the people are elderly, they’re looking forward to the chance to downsize and move on with the next stage of their lives.”

Mr Riggio said the community was as divided as he had ever seen it, even during the height of the debate over a proposed aged care facility in the area.

“I think we’ve got more than half of the support but there’s people who are genuinely afraid to put their name to it.

“They just want to stay in the background, they support us but they don’t want to get involved.”

One voter in favour of the rezoning, who asked Echo News to with-hold their name, said the opposition tactics were getting nasty.

“People have withdrawn their custom,” they said.

“The no vote is getting a bit nasty with things.

“Our side is more than prepared to compromise but we need them to come to the table.

“There’s been social shunning making people scared to support us, and we’ve had people who did support us, who were going to sign our petition, say that although they support us they can’t afford to be associated with us.

“We’d like to find a solution that takes as many people’s wishes into account as possible.

“With the way things are now that can’t happen.

“What I find inexplicable is that they’re even opposed to doing an environmental study of the area.

“If that study finds anything that’s any more sensitive than anything else on the outskirts of Perth, then make it a green space.

“The sad thing is they’re in the trenches now.

“They’ve dug into their position and they’re not willing to enter a discussion.

“We want have our say, and we just want them to listen.”

Bev Dornan has been perhaps the most passionate advocate of the ‘No’ voters.

In a statement to Echo News, she said any development would result in concrete, sheds and barbed wire fences.

Mrs Dornan said her group had no need to concern themselves with voters in favour of the redevelopment.

“We have no knowledge of, nor would we approve of, anyone stealing the signs of the pro-industrial group,” she said.

“We simply have no need to concern ourselves with a tiny smattering of signs obscurely saying Yes.

“The support for the ‘no industrialisation’ group of residents is solid and overwhelming

“We have no knowledge of members of the pro-industrial group being intimidated by members of our group of supporters.

“Our supporters are intelligent people who rely on research and verbal persuasion  exercised within democratic forums.”

She said the consultative community committee of council, formed during the last special council meeting over the issue, was simply a result of Kalamunda councillors caving in to a minority of people.

“Councillors, with the exception of the Deputy Mayor, caved in to the small number of people hoping to profit from the desecration of our environment and our lifestyles,” she said.

“Moreover they passed this motion without having any idea of the committee’s structure, membership, direction or even its powers and as such, the motion is arguably invalid.”

The special council meeting is scheduled to start on Monday night at 7.30pm, directly after a special council meeting, starting at 6.30pm, that will discuss industrialisation in Forrestfield.

About Liam Ducey

Liam Ducey is an experienced journalist, having worked in print media in Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Port Hedland, Bunbury and across the metropolitan area, as well as online for several Fairfax Media mastheads. His reporting has seen him awarded the 2013 Clubs WA award for Best Club Media Story and the Western Australian Football Commission Umpiring Media Award in 2014. He was a finalist in three categories in the 2018 WA Media Awards and is not at all salty that he didn't win at least one. He's recently had a baby girl, Emilia, with his wife Roselyn and has lost all concept of time and sleep.

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