Shire of Manjimup forced to axe at least three council positions under Local Government Act reforms

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Current Manjimup Shire Council.
Camera IconCurrent Manjimup Shire Council. Credit: Supplied: Shire of Manjimup

The Shire of Manjimup will be forced to axe at least three council seats and amend the current six-ward system under pending Local Government Act reforms affecting all of WA.

At least three council members will face the axe under the new structure, while the six-ward system of the Shire —which is currently made up of central, coastal, east, north, south, and west — will have to change to meet the new prescribed population levels.

Under the changes, the president position will also become an elected role, rather than voted by councillors, with wards also set to be changed or the system abolished completely.

Councils will also have to follow an optional preferential voting system under the changes.

These major changes are aimed at slimming down the sector and providing better value for money for ratepayers.

The Shire will now conduct a six-week consultation process to explore the various options available to fall in line with the Local Government Act reforms.

Shire of Manjimup president Paul Omodei said the Shire pleaded their case to retain the existing ward structure and council numbers but had been ignored by Housing Minister John Carey.

“We’ve tried to keep the wards, keep the eleven councillors,” he said.

“We wrote a letter to the minister quite some time ago and we’ve just been told everybody is in the same boat.

“The minister has said quite plainly that the reform will take place.

“I wanna make it really clear to our ratepayers this is not an imposition by your council, this is being imposed on us by the State Government on the grounds that it’s going to save money.”

Mr Omodei said the council number reduction was going to make it very difficult to retain the same the current six-ward system which puts Walpole and Northcliffe at risk of losing representation after the 2025 local government election.

“The majority of the population is in Manjimup which means that majority of the councillors will come from Manjimup,” he said.

“We’ve written to the minister and suggested to him going way back that we should retain the wards and the eleven councillors so that we can guarantee that Pemberton, Northcliffe and Walpole still receive councillors.

“All I’m suggesting to the minister is they make an exception for councils that have multiple towns to ensure that the smaller towns still retain representation.

“We’ve had these discussions with the minister and I think in the end it’s a question of whether they care or not. . . I think it is a fundamental right to have representation.”

The Shire has until February 14 to provide the Housing Minister with a transition plan.

Those that can’t or won’t voluntarily agree on a plan will be forced to “spill” their entire council ahead of the October 2023 local government election, at which point all the required changes would be enacted in one hit.

At a Shire council meeting on October 10, the council voted to adopt the voluntary pathway for the election transition arrangements and agreed to initiate a ward and representation review for the Shire of Manjimup.

“The paper the Shire has put out to the general public has a whole range of options for them to consider,” said Mr Omodei.

Shire of Manjimup CEO Andrew Campbell produced a 2022 Ward and Representation Review discussion paper for consultation purposes which includes a summary of the most probable options of councillor numbers and ward opportunities.

Community consultation will begin in the coming weeks.

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