DO more than 21,950 electors from the Town of Victoria Park and the City of South Perth disagree with the State Government’s proposed amalgamation of their neighbouring councils?
And are they prepared to stand up and be counted?
That is the number of votes needed to reject proposed mergers and the answer will become clear not long after 6pm on Saturday, February 7, the last time that votes can be officially included in voluntary postal polls on the future of local government reform.
Local leaders and lobbyists have called the February 7 date a victory, successfully pushing it back a week from the original January 31 date, when most people should have returned from school holidays.
All those enrolled to vote in the Town and City will receive a voting package via post from the WA Electoral Commission (WAEC) in January.
But a WAEC spokesman warned people to post their votes in time for them to be received by 6pm on February 7 or they would not count. A polling place would be available in each council area on the day but only for those who had not received or had lost their voting package.
Opponents of the merger say the polls are also a victory in the fight for democracy in Perth’s much-maligned local government reform process.
“This is a win for the people and a win for democracy,” Town of Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan said.
Both Victoria Park and South Perth mayors continue to be “disappointed” by “totally inadequate funding” offered by the State Government to implement reform.
“We have serious concerns about the huge gap between the actual costs of reform and the amount of funding made available by the State Government to be shared among 12 local governments,” South Perth Mayor Sue Doherty said.
The polls follow successful volunteer efforts to gather the required 250 signatures in each community and while they will be separate, with each council spending about $50,000, the question will be the same.
A Department of Local Government and Communities representative confirmed last week that if at least 50 per cent of the electors in one district vote, and most of those electors vote ‘no’, the Minister must reject the Local Government Advisory Board’s amalgamation recommendation.
“If that were to happen, the amalgamation would not go ahead,” the representative said.