Baptism of fire for deputy mayor of Cockburn

Carol Reeves-Fowkes.
Carol Reeves-Fowkes.

CAROL Reeve-Fowkes says the threat of amalgamation hung like a dark cloud over the City of Cockburn during her first stint as deputy mayor.

Ms Reeve-Fowkes, who began her time on council in 2007, succeeded Kevin Allen in 2013.

But it was not easy. The State Government had just proposed a merger between Cockburn and the City of Kwinana as part of its plans to halve the number of local governments in metro Perth.

That plan changed many times over the coming months, with one proposal put forward seeking to divide Cockburn among Kwinana, City of Fremantle and City of Melville.

Ms Reeve-Fowkes said the City left no stoned unturned in its effort to remain intact.

“The amount of work that went on behind the scenes was phenomenal,” she said.

“To try and unravel a City of 105,000 people, its assets, its infrastructure and its social programs for absolutely no gain for our residents – only cost – was something we didn’t want to do, but we had no choice in the matter.”

She said turning up to work each day knowing the City’s end was close was “soul destroying”.

“It was incredibly unsettling as staff had no sense of job security. It’s dreadful when you are trying to support a family and pay a mortgage, which so many of our staff are,” she said.

“We lost good staff to other organisations that weren’t facing disintegration and other staff members had annual leave postponed and had to work many extra hours to try and arrange to merge with three other entities and eliminate themselves.

“Fortunately we have a very strong community with a bulldog spirit which does not take annihilation lying down.”

It seemed impossible the State Government could abolish one of Australia’s most sustainable local governments and in the end that is how it turned out.

In late October Ms Reeve-Fowkes retained her position on the west ward and was re-elected by councillors for a second stint as the City’s deputy.

She says the future for Cockburn looks bright, although the proposed Perth Freight Link extension presents another mighty battle for the City.