Rockingham councillor Lee Downham and Baldivis ratepayer in heated social media exchange over rates

A screenshot of the exchange between Councillor Lee Downham and Baldivis resident Bev Northcomb Haji last night.
A screenshot of the exchange between Councillor Lee Downham and Baldivis resident Bev Northcomb Haji last night.

A BALDIVIS resident was gobsmacked after a heated exchange with City of Rockingham councillor Lee Downham about rates on social media last night.

Bev Northcombe Haji claimed Cr Downham was unprofessional in his response to her complaints about a 5 per cent rate rise.

Cr Downham deleted his councillor Facebook page after the exchange.

The debate centred around Cr Downham’s claim he had informally polled Baldivis residents and most supported the 5 per cent rate rise because they were “desperate for infrastructure.”

Ms Northcombe Haji disagreed residents were desperate for infrastructure and said residents should not have to pay out for things the City could not afford.

She said rate rises were unaffordable to some people and priorities should be made.

Cr Downham said there was a need for a sport complex and youth zone in Baldivis, but Ms Northcombe Haji said residents could use Larkhill for sports.

Cr Downham said Larkhill was too far away.

“His tone was quite aggressive and he told me I shouldn’t whinge on his page,” Ms Northcombe Haji said.

“It was not that we disagreed on the subject, it was his condescending tone.”

Ms Northcombe Haji also objected to the suggestion she move to Gosnells if she could not afford the rate rise.

Cr Downham said some people needed to show more empathy for others.

“It is short sighted to claim Baldivis does not need infrastructure,” he said.

“There are 1000 members with the Brumbies football club and a waiting list. People need to see the full picture.”

Cr Downham said he had asked about 100 residents about rate rises and what the community needed.

“About 75 per cent support the 5 per cent increase if they get the infrastructure,” he said.

“If the majority of people wanted a 2 per cent rate rise I would back it.”

Cr Downham said Baldivis was one of the cheapest areas to live, so there was little choice for ratepayers.

He said the only place he knew of that was cheaper, was Gosnells.

Cr Downham also said it had been a learning curve since becoming a councillor seven months ago.

He said things could be misconstrued on social media and there were a few users (not Mse Northcomb Haji) who goaded councillors.