Local Authority Amalgamations - the bigger picture

In many ways the contentious issue of local authority amalgamations has reminded the good citizens of Perth what they value in the way of locality management beyond ‘rates and rubbish’.

The most common concerns seem to be the loss of tradition, representation and, in some cases, the perceived loss of community facilities. All of which is interesting given that the nature, nomenclature, size and functionality of local authorities has been an evolving beast since Federation, with the latest proposals by the state government being the latest iteration.

Putting aside for one moment the political and economic rationale for the changes, and assuming the amalgamations go ahead in some form, what are the advantages that can come from this change, particularly from a city development and town planning point of view?

One of the more significant opportunities would be the review and consolidation of the various planning schemes that are in operation. An example would be where the proposed greater western suburbs council currently operates under seven different schemes that have an average age of 18 years plus dozens of structure plans and hundreds of amendments, policies and design guidelines. Roll the calendar forward to 2015 and the new Director of Planning of said new local authority would somehow have to manage a strategic and statutory planning function across such a platform. Good luck!

Perhaps of more importance however is the raft of relatively recent State Government Planning policies and reforms and their application across the metropolitan area. The consolidation and updating of the planning schemes offers a significant opportunity to overlay the many objectives that the state government is striving to implement. Included in this pile of reform are sub-regional transport initiatives, density, variety and built form changes, regional retail, commercial and industrial initiatives, transit oriented development policies and at the top of this pile, the path for growth identified in Directions 2031 and Beyond.

Logically therefore, the important and oft debated matter of our urban future should be appropriately resolved before the new local authority is put into the hands of the newly elected representatives so they may begin as they intend to continue on, with clarity, confidence and sound purpose.

-By Andrew Howe





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