As a Councillor I believe in representative democracy based on two-way communications between community and decision-makers. By-and-large the community feels comfortable in contacting me about issues that concern or interest them, which is good, so to keep my side of the bargain I am reporting back on issues I think will be of interest from council meetings.
Last night all Councillors attended the July Full Council Meeting, it would have been good to see more people in the gallery, contrary to popular opinion it can be interesting and informative watching the debate.
Before committee, Mayor Pettitt invited architect Bernard Seeber to comment on the recent success of the Hilton Community Hall in the WA Architecture Awards. Ever modest, Bernard spoke briefly of the project making the point its budget was smaller by orders of magnitude to that of its nearest rival. He went on to talk about the significance of the people the two awards were named after; that is George Temple Poole and John Septimus Roe. George Temple Poole was the State’s first Principle Architect from 1891 to 1897; a period of high growth due to the gold rush, and John Septimus Roe who was the first Surveyor General of W.A. and a State Parliamentarian.
Andrew Sullivan chose the Questions or personal explanations by members section of the agenda to announce his intention to nominate for pre-selection as the W.A. Greens candidate in next year’s State Election. He cited frustrations at not being able to achieve his passions at the local government level, including planning reform, light rail and transit, stalling of the 3 harbours proposal, infrastructure investment and of course local government reform. He also stated that, as is his right, he intends if successful in pre-selection, to continue in his role of councillor for the election period. I wish Andrew all the best in these endeavours.
The Council has given a strong message to the Planning Minister regarding his request we change Scheme Amendment 12, the structure plan for the North Fremantle area known as the Matilda Bay Brewery site. And that message is we do not support modifications to cede land which falls within the new Stirling Highway alignment from owners to the Crown, and for owners to, free of charge, adjust levels of that land to align with the road. In essence the minister sent the amendment back to council saying it would not be approved until it is modified. City officers gave council excellent advice based on sound planning law as to why we should reject that proposed modification, including the fact that the amendment to the MRS relating to Stirling Highway is not a consideration when amending a Local Planning Scheme (LPS). We shall have to wait for the Minister’s response, but I fully support the proactive stance council has taken.
One close decision with a vote of 7 for and 6 against was the proposal to extent the planning approval for the liquor warehouse in the Warehouse Fitness Centre on Hampton Road. Officers recommended approval based on planning considerations, which is their role. In his opening address the Chair of the Planning Services Committee suggested that whilst no councillor wanted the liquor warehouse councillors should support the officers recommendations as the alternative would be to spend money defending the decision at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT). In voting against the recommendation I applied Aristotelian dialectic and rhetoric decision-making, that is, I applied the planning advice, as dialectic consideration and I used rhetoric considerations (wicked) through my knowledge of community opinion on this issue and a belief that in their decision two years ago, SAT erred in deciding that a 1,600 square metre warehouse selling cartons of wine and beer constituted small scale retail.
The Fremantle plastic bag reduction local law took a significant step forward, being adopted to go out for community consultation. A great deal of work has gone into this in a short space of time and I hope the Fremantle community endorse this environmentally responsible initiative. In particular our oceans are being overrun with plastic and single use plastic bags are one of the major offenders. I’m sure everyone has seen the devastating pictures of wildlife caught up in plastic bags, or dying through plastic bag ingestion, and for what benefit, the convenience of not taking a bag when we go shopping? For me there is no comparison, we need to stop using single use disposable plastic bags. Some in the community have argued that without single use plastic bags they will have to buy bags to put rubbish in before putting it in their bin. In fact the rubbish in our green-topped bins is processed into soil improver and fertiliser and one of the major contaminants in the process is plastic in the form of single use bags. If you take nothing from this issue other than the message; do not use plastic to wrap your food waste, try newspaper, there will have been some benefit. The next stage is to gauge community support for the local law.
There was strong debate on the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Note Dame (UNDA), ultimately the MOU was passed with strong support. My personal belief is that Fremantle should be proud to be a university city and best outcomes can be achieved by cooperation between the two parties. On the issue of rates, it is Federal Government legislation that exempts religious, education and key infrastructure from rates liabilities. This has always been very significant for Fremantle as this exemption covers many Fremantle institutions including, the Port, the Hospital, TAFE, schools and government enterprises. I do believe this is unfair, but at the same time we should not vent all our frustrations on UNDA, they are offering to donate $75,000 to the city. Wouldn’t it be good if all other rate free enterprises offered the same pro-rata amount?
The major item on the agenda was the annual budget, which was supported by all councillors except Bill Massey. Council has gone through a long and diligent process to come up with this budget and I think the community will be pleased that Fremantle has one of the lowest rate rises in the metropolitan area at 3.5%, while maintaining a high level of service to the community.
Do come along to a Council meeting to watch democracy in action, meeting dates are on the cities webpage, but basically the first four Wednesday’s in the month from 6:00pm.