I’m leaving a legacy, says minister

Local Government Minister and Darling Range MLA Tony Simpson.
Local Government Minister and Darling Range MLA Tony Simpson.

Despite widespread opposition from mayors, administrators and residents, who are against local government reform, Mr Simpson has refused to bend.

He has used the same line since the State Government announced council amalgamation plans last year; that they are needed to meet the demands of a rapidly growing City and to create an equal rating system across Perth.

‘The current system is not working fairly enough for the ratepayer,’ he said.

‘That’s one of the main key areas we are working on.

‘If I sit back and do nothing, that will be a failure for me as Minister for Local Government.’

He said a strong council would have a mix of residential, commercial and industrial properties.

‘The ultimate local government has to have a reasonable rate base of roof tops ” of you and I and mums and dads paying rates ” some commercial, shopping centres and also industrial to create a fair and sustainable system,’ he said.

Under the current proposal, the City of Rockingham will keep its existing boundaries while the City of Kwinana could extend its boundary to take in a large portion of the City of Cockburn.

Mr Simpson said the plan to reduce metropolitan councils from 30 to 15 was the best outcome for Perth residents and he did not have much sympathy for councils that resisted the process.

He refuted claims that the process was undemocratic. He said councils had not explained the process to residents.

The LGAB is considering 36 proposals, including 12 from Mr Simpson’s office, and is expected to make its recommendations next month. 

Q and A with Local Government Minister Tony Simpson

Q. Queensland has just gone through a de-amalgamation, why are you basing your evidence and research on their model?
A. Queensland has gone through a deamalgamation on one of their councils, mainly because they went too big. They made a council from Victoria Park to Serpentine Jarrahdale. Can you imagine how many communities went in that? It just did not work and we learnt from that. I want to get the economies of scale to around 100,000 people; that is the ultimate goal, that is a good base, 250,000 is probably too big.

Q. Are communities going to lose their sense of identity?
A. I don’t think so. I believe that a local government is a facilitator, but the community makes up the community.You’re going to live in the same house in the same street, same suburb, same postcode. ‘The thing you sometimes forget is that the assets of the council belong to the ratepayer, they don’t belong to the shire or the council. The council is just a facilitator of how they administrate it.

Q. Do you think your ministerial roles have affected your electorate duties?
A. It is a lot of pressure, I must admit it’s hard balancing ” from being a very hands-on member for the last eight years, to now almost being one-and-a-half days a week almost, trying getting around to all those community groups and do all those bits and pieces I used to do. It is very hard trying to balance= your role as minister as well as being member for Darling Range.

Q. Did you expect this amount of opposition?
A. Yes, I always thought there’d be quite a reasonable amount of opposition, there’s a lot of people who are passionate about their community and they’re the ones who you see who are quite out spoken, but there is a silent majority. I expected some protest.