Judge crushes coun­cil case

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Local Government Reform Local Government Reform - Jon Bas­sett

NEED A TRADIE? THE City of South Perth will bear a share of the State Govern­ment’s le­gal costs af­ter los­ing its le­gal bat­tle against coun­cil merg­ers last Tues­day.

Chief Jus­tice Wayne Martin QC in­di­cated that coun­cils led by South Perth, Su­bi­aco, Kala­munda and Ser­pen­tine-Jar­rah­dale had lost a le­gal bat­tle against merg­ers about three hours into a Supreme Court hear­ing last Tues­day.

The pub­lic and coun­cil may­ors and chief ex­ec­u­tives packed the court to hear the re­sult of two le­gal chal­lenges late in the day.

They had pre­vi­ously heard a highly tech­ni­cal, two-and-a-halfhour ar­gu­ment from the coun­cils’ coun­sel Chris Shana­han SC be­ing whit­tled down by Mr Martin from five to two main claims.

Mr Shana­han claimed the Govern­ment did not com­ply with the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act’s in­ten­tion to give res­i­dents’ polls on change; that 12 Govern­ment pro­pos­als for new coun­cils did not fit the Act; that the Lo­cal Govern­ment Ad­vi­sory Board (LGAB) acted con­trary to terms; and that LGAB mem­bers had con­flicts of in­ter­est.

He with­drew the first and se­cond claims and Mr Martin handed down decisions about 3pm, say­ing the ar­gu­ment the govern­ment chose boundary changes to avoid polls was a “strange and ar­ti­fi­cial con­struc­tion”.

South Perth has spent $53,000 of its al­lo­cated $150,000 for le­gal pro­ceed­ings but will share a por­tion of the State’s le­gal costs.

Mayor Sue Do­herty said the coun­cil took part in the ac­tion be­cause elec­tors had been un­able to ex­er­cise their right to have a say.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ments, who have the op­por­tu­nity to amal­ga­mate, ben­e­fit from the ca­pac­ity to trig­ger the poll pro­vi­sions whereas those sub­ject to boundary changes do not have this right,” she said.

Out­side court, coun­cils’ lawyer John Ham­mond said it was too early to ap­peal but fights would con­tinue de­spite the cost, as peo­ple wanted their coun­cils to stay.

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