Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Taking Back Local Authority

The State Government has ripped our local voices away. The big decisions about what gets built in our WA communities are now taken by appointed Panels of five people, with only two of them Councillors elected by us. And wait, it gets worse! The local Council briefs to the panels are prepared without any input from our Councillors. And there’s more! The two representatives are not even required to give the opinion of their Council, and can say just give their own views.

Any development in WA with a value of more than $7million ($15million in the City of Perth) must go to a Panel for permission to proceed. They bypass the Council. Additionally, any applicant with a project over $3million ($10million in City of Perth) can just go straight to the Panel, again bypassing the Council.

It’s time we did something about this. Let’s take back some strength for our local voices. There are things our Councils can do.

Council’s elected members give some of their decision-making roles over to the employed staff. This is called Delegated Authority and gives the power to process the thousands of procedural matters over to employees with the appropriate skills and training. Only when matters are large, contentious or in dispute do these decisions actually come to the elected members.

There are two steps that Councils could take to strongly influence the way the local area develops. Elected members might not always realise it but they have the power to withdraw Delegated Authority. Council can take back this authority and require briefing papers for the Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) to be prepared jointly with our elected members. Next, Councils can insist that their two minority representatives speak on behalf of the Council, not as individuals.

This way we can ensure that our community voice is stronger and is heard. I know Julie Matheson in Subiaco Council has a similar view and that many Councils are feeling powerless. Do you support this? Are there other actions to keep our Councils strong? Can we still have a say in what happens around here? Click on Comments below. (Comments are now open but offensive material will be removed.)


Don Yates said...

The State Govt planning move to create Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) was an attempt to get around certain local interest barriers that may not necessarily be present in the City of South Perth, but are frustratingly present in a number of the other 29 councils in the greater Perth metro area. South Perth may be a 'victim' of the fun and games in some neighbouring councils that have been 'active' for decades.

Andrew Sullivan said...

I'm a DAP member 'representing' the City of Fremantle. From memory I'm not allowed to slag off DAP's so an otherwise very long comment will necessarily be quite short. The elected Fremantle Council is providing input to the DAP by providing its own recommendation over and above the formal recommendation put forward by the planning officers. There is nothing that legally stops this happening provided it is done within the time frame required. It is simply part of the extensive consultation process so at least the position of the elected body is known. We also have an independent Design Advisory Committee and it is a scheme requirement that decision makers, including DAP's and SAT have due regard to their input and recommendations. In addition to tightening up on our scheme provisions, its the best we can do!! I look forward to the review into whether DAPS have proved to be more rigorous, time efficient and cheaper for developers.

Salamah Pope said...

I'm just an ordinary person, a rate-payer and so on, but I do think we ordinary people need to have some say in what happens to building development in our local communities. And even in downtown Perth: I used to be proud to live here, but now it's growing just like any other big city, without any character. Shame! Salamah Pope