By Melissa Sheil
EMOTIONS ran high at a packed Kalamunda Council meeting this week as residents made passionate deputations for and against the decision to cease rezoning of all rural lands across the City until environmental legislation had been considered.
Council ultimately voted to reject the rezoning moratorium after two hours of debate and support the officer’s recommendation that stated every rezoning proposal should be judged on its own merit and not preemptively refused.
The idea to impose a moratorium sprung from a motion proposed by Wattle Grove resident Bev Dornan at the annual electors meeting in March this year, passed by about 30 ratepayers.
Mrs Dornan, who co-coordinates environmental action group Ecovision, proposed the blanket ban on rezoning to give Council time to examine the draft Local Biodiversity Strategy (LBS) – a document that governs the protection and enhancement of the natural environment.
The moratorium was only expected to be in place until the finalisation of the LBS in December.
In total, Council heard 11 deputations on the matter, with six residents in favour of the temporary rezoning ban and seven against.
Many hailed from Wattle Grove, where plans to rezone the southern side of the suburb have been in flux for several years.
Debate reignited tensions, with residents in favour of development dubbed “money-hungry” and those against “selfish Nimbys”.
Of particular concern was the future of subdivision in Pickering Brook, where long-standing plans to rezone, expand and inject tourism to the area were recently endorsed by the State Government.
“It is totally unfair for the wishes of a few in Wattle Grove to be imposed onto the rest of the City,” Pickering Brook landowner Ray Furfaro said.
“We’ve been working on this for many years, to utilise all the barren orchard land in the area and make the suburb vibrant – right now we live in a ghost town and subdivision is the only way to help.
“In our plan, there is a condition that no bushland is to be touched, and all new blocks be revegetated.
“This moratorium doesn’t take into account years of hard work done by our community in Pickering Brook and the support of the taskforce and government ministers.”
Speaking to Echo News following the motion’s failure, Charles Dornan of behalf of Ecovision said the “scuttling” of the moratorium was shameful and a snub to City residents.
“Councillors (except Cr Kathy Ritchie who voted against it) fell at the first test of the City’s so-called climate emergency declaration, which is barely a month old,” he said.
“With less than 10 per cent of the City’s original mapped vegetation remaining, councillors seem to believe they can get away with anything, including massive land clearance, loss of tree canopy and rapidly declining biodiversity.
“Having blatantly failed to protect the environment over the past decade, this vote was just a shameful and appalling attempt by the Council to steal a march on the State Government’s upcoming review of zoning.”
This sentiment was not shared by all, with many in the gallery applauding the Council’s final decision.
Council voted 8/1 in favour of rejecting the moratorium, on the grounds of upholding good governance by considering proposals individually, need for infill, and the draft LBS already assisting in decision making prior to its formal consideration in December.
On the Mundaring side of the region, community action group Save Perth Hills presented a petition to parliament last week for a similar moratorium to be placed on all large-scale residential development in bushfire prone areas pending the outcome of the State Government’s Wooroloo Bushfire inquiry.