By Rebecca Peppiatt
For one election candidate, the race for a spot on the council at the Shire of Mundaring was an early landslide victory.
Stoneville resident Paige McNeil was elected unopposed last week, becoming the new representative for Central ward alongside Crs Amy Collins and Doug Jeans.
She will be sworn into council on October 19, three days after election day which will see five more nominees take the reins, replacing half the current councillors who decided not to re-run at the end of their terms.
Mrs McNeil needs no introduction to many, as a Hills resident for the past 25 years and a driving force behind community group Save Perth Hills, which instigated a fight against a property developer in 2018 to halt the destruction of a 555ha piece of North Stoneville land in favour of 1410 homes.
The development plans are now with a State Administrative Tribunal, thanks, in part, to Mrs McNeil’s perseverance, tenacity and community vision.
“To fight that like we did, you needed to understand the legislation,” she said.
“I’ve read the planning legislation, I’ve read far too many reports on wastewater treatment plans, I spent hundreds of hours researching it and from my governance background I have the skills to be able to do that.
“From that I saw I could add value, my skills could add value.
“I’m a pragmatic person and so I’m like, I’ve got all these skills, I want to use them again.”
Mrs McNeil is a wife and mother of two grown up children.
A former primary school teacher, administration manager and business consultant, while her motivation for becoming a councillor was borne out of the Save the Perth Hills fight, her vision is far broader.
Along with a massive emphasis on community engagement, Mrs McNeil is keen to analyse, dissect and improve policies that affect the region in a proactive way.
“A lot of people think they’re going to join council and change the operations in the administration,” she said.
“That’s not necessarily so, but if you have strong policy, which the council sets, strong policy will then support strong decisions.”
Apart from advocating for a state policy for peri-urban areas like the Hills, Mrs McNeil is also hoping to encourage housing options for the young and old, as well as improving communication between the council and the public.
“The Shire of Mundaring does a lot of good things, but you can’t sell a secret,” she said.
“I believe it’s the role of council to be that conduit between the Shire and the community and, again, that gets down to the stakeholder and community engagement and working that piece really well.”