Council amalgamations: Where to for Samson?
The current situation
1. The State Governments plans to amalgamate councils in July 2015.
2. It proposes to merge Fremantle, East Fremantle, Melville and parts of Canning.
3. Fremantle is making a submission to the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB) that the merger does not make sense and argues instead for the creation of a Greater Fremantle council.
What about Samson?
The City of Fremantle submission proposes to transfer Samson and the eastern part of O'Connor to Melville in return for Bicton and Palmyra, creating a Greater Fremantle with Stock Rd as its eastern boundary.
The rationale is that Stock Rd makes for a clear and legible boundary that will give the submission a greater chance of success. While I understand that argument, I don't think it is a good enough reason for Fremantle to cast off Samson.
At a special meeting of Council on September 16 I moved an amendment to the submission that Samson be included, but this was lost 4 votes to 7.
But what do Samson residents want?
In a survey conducted earlier this year 42% of Samson residents voted in favour of a merger Melville, while 42% voted for options which would see Samson stay with Fremantle.
A further 17% voted for Option C which corresponds to the current proposal. However the explanation in the survey failed to mention that Samson was not included. As a result I think it's fair to conclude that a narrow majority of those surveyed favoured staying with Fremantle, something I wholeheartedly support.
Clearly some residents do want to go with Melville. If a more comprehensive survey shows this to be the majority view then I will respect that.
Will you get a say?
In the survey only 28% of Fremantle residents supported the idea that the State Government should unilaterally impose amalgmations. However Premier Barnett is also proposing to scrap the "Dadour Amendments".
These are provisions of the Local Government Act which allow the residents of a council to reject a merger in a poll if they don't want it. This is a basic democratic right, one that Barnett said before the election he would respect. There is an active community campaignto preserve this right.
Where to from here?
While I'm disappointed the majority of council didn't support the retention of Samson, I think there is still a strong basis to make an independent submission to the Minister and the LGAB explaining why it should be included and I will be working with Samson residents who feel the same way to make this happen.
Reasons to keep Samson in Freo:
1. Samson has it's own identity and connection to Fremantle
Samson is named after Fremantle's most famous mayor and was founded by Fremantle people. The current state government plan ignores communities of interest. Melville has yet created a proper CBD that Samson can relate to.
2. Samson would be a tiny part of an enlarged Melville
While we in the more eastern suburbs of Fremantle often feel like we've been forgotten about, there is no reason to think this would improve in a mega-Melville merger. Samson's 2000 residents would be a very small part of Melville that already has more than 100,000 people.
3. Rules about what you can do with your property may be affected
There is no certainty about what a new planning scheme would be like. Samson has its own planning scheme to protect its special characteristics. Fremantle has progressive policies that allow you to build a granny flat without special planning approval. These are unlikely to survive under a new council.
4. Just in case
If you are planning a new development or addition it would be prudent to to lodge an application under our current scheme.
5. Your rates will not decrease
There is no reason to expect lower rates from any new council. Fremantle's rate rises have generally been lower than neighbouring councils.
6. Pensioners will pay more
The Fremantle rubbish charge is included in rates which qualifies for a 50% state government subsidy. Melville levies a separate rubbish charge which does not get the subsidy.
7. No more free parking in Fremantle
As a resident you are entitled to Fremantle Parking sticker that entitles you to two hours free parking in council car parks.
8. Avoid unnecessary future disruption
The Fremantle submission suggests that "Stage 2" in the reform process could see Samson plus Willagee, Coolbellup and parts of Kardinya join with Fremantle. It would be absurd for Samson to be handed over to Melville and then handed back to Fremantle ten years later. Make it simple, just keep Samson in Fremantle.
9. Local representation will disappear
Fremantle has twelve elected councillors for 26,000 people compared to 100,000 in Melville. In a merged council this could rise to 140,000, creating wards even bigger than state electorates. This would be a dramatic drop in democratic representation.
If you agree then please get in touch and sign this petition: