FURTHER information will be sought by the City of Fremantle about the possibility of expanding its southern border, with the council keen to leave the door open to change.
Proponents of a community-led push known as Greater Fremantle want the port city’s boundary extended to include part of North Coogee and the whole of Hamilton Hill, which is currently in Cockburn.
Enough support has been gathered by its supporters to trigger the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB) to hold a public inquiry, which is likely to occur in mid-August or September.
Fremantle councillors debated the issue on Wednesday, with a city officer putting forward a recommendation that Fremantle take a formal stance against supporting boundary changes.
“The current proposal before the LGAB, to transfer Hamilton Hill and part of North Coogee from the City of Cockburn to the City of Fremantle, is outside of any organised and comprehensive boundary reform process,” the report read.
“This change is also opposed by the City of Cockburn.
“Given that Council understands that the Minister for Local Government will not agree to any boundary change not agreed to by the relevant councils, the City does not believe that it is in either community’s best interest to be pursuing boundary reform at this time.”But after about half an hour of debate, the city backed councillor Jon Strachan’s call for a decision to be deferred.
Councillor Strachan said the item had not gone through the normal committee processes, a cost-benefit analysis had not been made available, and said a decision should not be made just to appease Cockburn.
“The reasons given (in the recommendation) were far from convincing,” he said. “The City of Fremantle aspires to be the second (major) city and you don’t get there by not doing things because they might offend a neighbouring council.
“I think it is far more important we understand what the community in the affected areas wish for, then make a decision because we are here to represent the community.”
Four residents from North Coogee’s South Beach Estate spoke during public question time, with three of them backing the Greater Fremantle campaign.
Several councillors argued they could not back the recommendation because it appeared to close the door on reform.
The City of Fremantle is keen to see the two suburbs shifted north. But it is doubtful it will actively pursue that in the short term because Cockburn will not agree to it.
Local Government Minister Tony Simpson is unlikely to back change not agreed to by both councils.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt voted to pass the recommendation, saying the issue was about timing. “It’s about picking when you do this battle,” he said.
“For me, what the officer’s recommendation is saying is that the timing is wrong; we should support the LGAB process.
“After the state election we’ll have some clarity around where local government reform is going and that is probably the time to have this conversation.” Greater Fremantle convener Adin Lang said the time was now.
“If you wait for the perfect time it will never happen,” he said.
“Our submission has been lodged, the LGAB is going to look into it and Fremantle should seize the opportunity because it won’t come around in the near future.
“I can’t see myself going through the process again. It’s a lot of work.”
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said adjusting Fremantle’s boundary would be costly and outweigh the benefits of extra ratepayers.
“While the City of Cockburn has allocated a nominal amount of up to $50,000 for the purpose of gathering information for a submission to respond to the proposal, the actual cost of transfer of the suburbs to a neighbouring council will dwarf that amount when the asset divestment and unproductive time taken up attending to those processes is considered,” he said.