By Melissa Sheil
VOICES of the Perth Hills community will soon become louder in important decision-making processes thanks to the newly formed not-for-profit Perth Hills Future group, says founding member Paige McNeil.
“There has been a very real disconnect between the members of our community and what is occurring in it for a very long time,” she said.
“We have been frustrated that planning decisions and environmental decisions have been made seemingly ad hoc and our voice was essentially being drowned out.
“We aim to change that.”
The group was born from the results of a Regional Development Australia Perth report conducted across five local government areas – Swan, Mundaring, Kalamunda, Armadale and Serpentine-Jarrahdale.
The 2020 Perth Hills Strategic Visioning report gave five recommendations, the first being to create a peak-body for the Perth Hills to consolidate residents and ratepayers opinions for key decisions made in their community.
Perth Hills Future will begin a deep community consultation process through surveys, interviews, forms, online comment boards, social media, meetings with community groups and networking events.
The consultation will help form a snapshot of community opinions from the eastern and hills region which will then be presented to government authorities as community mandates.
“It’s very important that these serve as a real-world snapshot and everyone’s opinion is heard,” Ms McNeil said.
“At its core, Perth Hills Future is a community lead, grassroots movement, so we need people to become members and offer up their thoughts so we are inclusive.
“Government consultation is often very formal, creating a barrier between the community and the decision makers, and preventing an environment of free speech and non-judgemental trust.
“Giving a solution-based mandate with a stamp of community approval will see us far.”
Priority projects the group will seek consultation on include responsible land planning, improving and changing energy sourcing, public transport accessibility and environmental retention.
“As well as announcing what we think would harm our community, we need to advocate for what would benefit it,” Ms McNeil said.
“We have so much untapped potential in the tourism and the lifestyle economy and we can use it as an economic driver.”
The future movement model is based on one originating in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s, and has been successful more locally and recently, in Cottesloe and Bayswater.
As an apolitical group, Ms McNeil said they would lobby members in local, State and Federal Government.
“We have had inference from members of both major parties that they will be happy to begin a working relationship with us, so we are set no matter which way the election goes,” she said.
“The hills community has some very wise and very smart people in it so if we can band together in consultation, we step into a space of creating and designing actively what we want our future community to look like.”
Ms McNeil said Perth Hills Future group is a natural progression of campaign groups such as the Save Perth Hills movement.
“We spend so much time fixing the mistakes of the past, we lose time planning the future,” she said.
“It’s the positive side of the same coin, we have told developers and the government bodies what we don’t want, but now we need to say what it is we do want.
“Sign up and lend us your voice – if we as a community don’t step into the space, then someone else who doesn’t have our interests at heart will.”