Secret merger meeting

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson met amalgamation opponents in a private meeting. Picture: Marcelo Palacios d419828
Local Government Minister Tony Simpson met amalgamation opponents in a private meeting. Picture: Marcelo Palacios d419828

Group members sat down over a meal and a beer with Mr Simpson, Kalamunda MLA John Day and Forrestfield MLA Nathan Morton at the Kalamunda Hotel on Tuesday night ” without placards being waved or protesters chanting anti-reform slogans ” to get their concerns out in the open.

Shire of Kalamunda councillors John Giardina and Dylan O’Connor also attended the closed-door gathering.

Action group member and meeting organiser Sara Lohmeyer described the event’s atmosphere as ‘respectful’.

‘This was not about humiliating anyone or placards. It was wonderful; they are decent folk and they have a difficult job to do,’ she said.

‘It was each side hearing the other out.’

Ms Lohmeyer said issues raised included the Kalamunda community’s ‘overwhelming opposition’ to forced amalgamation and the Belmont ‘takeover’, the belief that Kalamunda would lose its sense of community and the concern that a business case had not been presented for amalgamation.

She said it was made clear to Mr Simpson, Mr Day and Mr Norton that if no compromise was attained, the group would continue to fight.

‘(We would) highlight this decision right up to the next election and ensure locals are aware of how the Liberal Party and its three local representatives deserted us and refused to stand with their communities,’ she said.

Mr Simpson said he had met several action groups, with another meeting planned for last night. He said the closed-door meetings were far more productive than Parliament House rallies.

‘With a rally, it is always good to show strength in numbers but it is hard to address the issues when people are fired up,’ he said.

‘With these small meetings, I can explain the process and listen to other views.’

Mr Simpson said despite it being a productive exercise, it was now in the hands of the Local Government Advisory Board to make a decision on any mergers.

The LGAB is expected to table a final report to Mr Simpson by late July.