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.)