HISTORY shows us that just one in four West Australians participate in the election of their mayors and councillors.
In Perth’s northern councils of Joondalup and Wanneroo that number was closer to one in five during the past two local government elections, while port city Fremantle and affluent Peppermint Grove led the way with every third resident or ratepayer returning their postal ballots.
The Perth Metropolitan average is 27.5 per cent – a far cry from the 87 per cent of West Australians who voted in March’s State election.
Although not compulsory, Local Government Minister David Templeman said voting in local government elections was crucial to ensure councils remained accountable for their actions.
“Inefficient and poorly run councils can result in poor decision making and decisions that aren’t representative of all segments of the community,” he said.
“Competition breeds excellence, and a greater number of candidates will contribute to a higher standard of community representation, and the effective governance that communities deserve.”
Councils wield the power to set rates, upgrade or demolish sporting facilities and approve or knock back supermarkets or high-rise apartment blocks.
They are responsible for putting in place plans for the future development of neighbourhoods and communities and every year are collectively entrusted with managing hundreds of millions of ratepayer money.
At the start of the year the State Government suspended the Shire of Exmouth council amid a corruption probe and in May the Corruption and Crime Commission released a statement that said Exmouth was the latest “of more than 10 regional and metropolitan local government authorities to have attracted the Commission’s interest in recent years”.
Mr Templeman said local government elections were an opportunity to influence local decision making.
“West Australian communities deserve strong and capable local governments,” he said.
“From maintaining the roads we travel on, rubbish collection and providing community facilities to major planning and building approvals and setting rates, local governments define the places where we live, work and play.
“Local governments that perform best have strong, effective councillors and engaged communities – that’s why the local government elections are so important.”