The State Government had threatened to initiate its reform should local governments not co-operate through the process of voluntary restructuring.
But that did not seem to worry most of council who chose to follow Deputy Mayor Kevin Allen’s alternative recommendation that it no longer wished to proceed with proposed amalgamation unless results of a poll showed ratepayers supported it.
‘Our ratepayers have rights and we must endeavour to stand up for them,’ Cr Allen said. ‘They have a democratic right to be polled over issues such as amalgamations and we as a democratically elected body should be fighting to retain that right for them.’
He said Cockburn had spent considerable time on long-term strategic planning and he could not see how it was possible to paint a more financially positive future by merging with Kwinana.
A report filed for councillors estimated the cost of amalgamating the two cities at around $7.5 million. Cockburn’s finance director Stuart Downing said the City and Kwinana would be calling on the State Government to foot the bill, but added that it would fall to ratepayers should the money not be forthcoming.
‘Are our ratepayers better off if we amalgamate? No,’ West ward councillor Carol Reeve-Fowkes said. ‘In fact, it is likely to cost about $7.5 million.’
‘Where is the groundswell of residents demanding we amalgamate with Kwinana or any other neighbour? It’s not there. In fact residents are asking me why on earth we would even be considering amalgamation.’
Central ward councillors Bart Houwen and Stephen Pratt had argued that the City should fall into line to get the best of both worlds. If Cockburn did voluntarily merge, it would have more say over boundary changes and not be at the mercy of the State Government who would make a submission on the City’s behalf.
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said he believed council would be open to reconsidering its position if the poll provisions were guaranteed.