By Melissa Sheil
DESPITE only one motion being moved by about 30 ratepayers, it was not a quiet night at the Kalamunda Annual Electors Meeting last week.
Environmental mismanagement and aged care concerns were hot topics, with both councillors and City staff facing a tirade of angry ratepayers who alleged the City had not done enough to protect the natural environment.
Mayor Margaret Thomas told attendees before the meeting there would not be time allocated to ask general questions, only for questions related to the 2019/20 annual report.
Ratepayers instead criticised aspects of the report to incite conversation on their issue.
Eight ratepayers needled the specific wording of the annual report, with resident Charles Dornan dubbing it a “useless PR document”.
Electors ultimately voted to not receive the report – a symbolic move that has no effect on City operations – carrying it 18/10.
Facts that were repeatedly spouted by electors in question time included the City’s poor record of natural land conservation, their status as the second worst local government area for tree canopy loss in Australia and an enquiry to where the blame for these statistics lie.
Leading the charge was Wattle Grove resident and environmental activist group Eco Vision organiser Bev Dornan.
Ms Dornan moved a motion for a moratorium to be placed on all rural zoned lands in the City until Council had time to consider the Draft Local Biodiversity Strategy, currently out for public comment.
This motion was seconded by Charles Dornan and ultimately passed 20/2.
The motion comes as a follow up to the debate on rezoning a portion of Wattle Grove South from rural to urban, a plan Council voted to indefinitely halt at a November 2020 meeting.
Ms Dornan considered the results of the electors meeting a success.
“For the first time in this long battle, we saw a chink of hope,” she said.
“Councillors actually seemed stunned by the findings of their own environmental report as it showed the City has protected a mere 2.2 hectares of local natural areas since 2008 while wiping out 730 hectares of biodiversity over the same period and clearing vegetation at a rate of 53 hectares per year.
“These statistics completely justify our fight to save a large part of Wattle Grove South from the bulldozers but the call for a moratorium will be the true test.”
The City maintains they are protecting natural land efficiently.
“The City of Kalamunda has a long history of showcasing significant regard for the environment and being at the forefront of environmental protection and enhancement of City managed assets,” a spokeswoman said.
“Over the past few years, the City has worked closely with the Kalamunda Environmental Advisory Committee to establish revised strategic environmental frameworks that seek to protect and enhance the City’s natural environment and developed four key environmental oriented strategies – Environmental Land Use Planning Strategy, Local Environment Strategy, Draft Biodiversity Strategy and the Draft Urban Forrest Strategy – each offering an array of actions that seek to protect, expand and enhance the City’s natural environment.”
Aged care advocate for Kalamunda Iris Jones also spoke up, asking Council if they had considered the results of the Royal Commission into Aged Care report.
“The report is blistering in its findings on the serious neglect our elderly have suffered,” she said.
“I believe there is an opportunity to right this wrong and local government have a role to play.”
City staff reported Council had not yet examined the results of the report but intended to.