By Sarah Brookes
RESIDENTS fear Kalamunda shire’s proposal to become a city may go ahead even if public consultation shows ratepayers oppose the change.
WA Labor Kalamunda Zig Zag branch organiser Nigel Dickinson said at a Lesmurdie and Districts Community Association meeting this month, that shire president Sue Bilich had warned attendees that a no vote to city status would not be the end the issue.
“She said the shire could just ask the Local Government Minister to tick off the change anyway,” he said.
“What’s the point of asking people for their views and then ignoring them?
“They try to scare us with a straw man, saying we’ll be swallowed up by another big city, but it’s lame.
“We’re a shire, not a city.”
But Ms Bilich denied the claims and said council had not made any firm decision to move to city status.
“What we are being asked for is more information and this is why the council is extending the date for public consultation to September 15,” she said.
“We are focused on busting some of the myths surrounding this idea, that the proposed change is just about councillors and staff wanting to be paid more. It certainly is not.
“It is also not about building high rise apartments throughout the shire or turning the current shire into suburban blandness.”
The Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group, which rallied against proposed local government mergers, has issued a statement urging residents to oppose a move to city status.
“One of the issues which rankled everyone was the consistent refusal of Barnett to cost his foiled forced merger plans,” the letter said.
“Well, now we have a council that is not giving us the costings for this campaign, and possible poll, to change our identity.
“It smacks of hypocrisy, when obviously there is a significant changeover cost.
“If they have spare employees to work on unwanted, unnecessary campaigns like this, then perhaps one could question their staffing levels.”
But Ms Bilich said a change to city status would not create any abnormal cost impost for ratepayers and would signal the shire was progressive.
“The cost associated with a change of name largely relates to signage and stationery,” she said.
“The shire’s intention would be to phase in any changeover so there is no cost imposition other than would have occurred under the usual replacement process.”
But the action group also warned there were serious implications should the shire become a city and a mayor was elected by residents rather than councillors.
“It is natural to think that election by the people is the more democratic way of doing things,” the letter said.
“But beware, for mayoral candidates to be able to promote themselves to all the residents, not just the local ward, the expenses would be considerable.
“These candidates would need to be either very wealthy individuals or, as is more likely, their campaigns would need to be supported by big business, developers, or a political party.
“Surely it is better to leave the current situation in place whereby a mayor or shire president is chosen from among the councillors, by the councillors.”