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Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Front Page - Michele Nu­gent

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.

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