DESPITE strong community opposition, the Shire of Kalamunda is moving forward with plans to change its status to a city following council endorsement of a report at its ordinary council meeting on Monday night.
Shire President Andrew Waddell said by definition Kalamunda shire was already a city.
“We are a large urban metropolitan local government with 75 per cent of its population living in the urban area,” he said.
“We are in the top 10 per cent of local governments in Western Australia.
“We have a population of over 60,000 while the average population size of other shires in WA is around 5000 to 10,000.
“Our nearest Shire, the Shire of Mundaring, is only two thirds our size.
“We are larger than every single Town in the state and we are larger than a majority of cities within the state.”
Cr Waddell said council wanted to reflect where the shire was today and move into the future.
“The question we asked is, why would we want a designation that suggests we are something that we are not?” he said.
The issue has been subject to numerous council meetings, a special electors meeting in January and a community survey in 2015 where 63 per cent of respondents opposed a move to seek city status.
Cr Waddell said feedback on the proposal had been passionate from both sides of the debate.
“The one unifying characteristic being that people want to preserve that which makes Kalamunda special,” he said.
“As a council we can assure residents that the change in designation will not change what they love about living here.”
Lesmurdie resident Iris Jones queried why the Shire had ignored community views on the issue.
“If the Shire goes to the trouble of doing a survey then they should listen to the outcome, otherwise why bother?” she said.
“In addition, the electors meeting showed there was overwhelming support to remain as a shire.
“Either you trust the residents who take the time to communicate with you or you don’t.”
But during public question time Gooseberry Hill resident John Acton said not everybody was opposed to the change to city status.
“Younger members of the community see it as an advancement and a benefit to the community,” he said.
Alan Malcolm from the Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group said city status would not open up opportunities for the Shire.
“The argument we are being denied funding and grant opportunities because we are a shire are misleading,” he said.
“There will be significant costs in changing to a city.”
But Cr Waddell said becoming a city would not be a costly exercise.
“It will not result in increased salaries for councillors and staff, high rise buildings or a hike in rates,” he said.
“Any budgeting impacts would be minimal and taken into account through normal budgeting processes over a number of years and would not be an additional burden to ratepayers.
“Changes reflecting city status would be introduced gradually over time as items reach their natural end of life or use.”
Councillors John Giardina, Geoff Stallard, Sue Bilich and Michael Fernie voted against the motion to seek city status.
Cr Stallard said the benefits were unclear.
“The community spoke,” he said.
“We should be listening to the community. We didn’t do this right and we are trying to replace what works with what sounds good.”
The Shire of Kalamunda will now write to the Local Government Minister Paul Miles again to ask for the change of status from a shire to a city to proceed, with the change to be implemented from July 1, 2017.
Subject to the Minister’s approval of the request, Governor’s Orders would be issued making the change in designation law.
Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group spokesman John Humphries said the community were cheated by the decision made by council.
“Council refused to acknowledge the factual evidence presented at the meeting, which clearly demonstrated their seriously flawed reasoning,” he said.
“Councillors stated they were voting in support of the unknown views of the silent majority or those who don’t bother to express an opinion, on anything.
“Councillors refused to conduct a poll that would put some fairness and integrity back into this debate, by listening to all their residents.
“Such a poll could have been combined with the upcoming elections in October to minimise costs.
“What are they afraid of?”