Esperance Shire Council debate motions

Esperance Shire councillor Shelly Payne’s push to acknowledge the cultural significance of the Esperance Tanker Jetty has failed at the council meeting on February 27.

The motion suggested the Shire use the word ‘renewal’ when discussing upcoming works on the structure, as opposed to ‘demolish’ or ‘replace’, with documentation to be updated accordingly.

Speaking to the motion, Councillor Payne said the community had a strong connection to and intergenerational links with the Tanker Jetty and it was culturally important to them.

“It has been a feature in the Esperance landscape for over 82 years and gives our community a sense of place,” she said.

“By using the word renewal, and acknowledging the cultural importance and heritage value of the Esperance Tanker Jetty, this will help bring the community onside for the renewal works.

“The word demolish does not send a good message to the wider Western Australian community on how we are treating our rare State Heritage asset.”

The motion was later seconded by Councillor Dale Piercey.

Councillor Ron Padgurskis said he could not support the motion, stating that part of it was contrary to the council’s previous motions.

“To change the documents is ridiculous,” he said.

“This would be contrary to what we’ve been doing as a council.

“I cannot support this motion, I really cannot.”

Speaking to the motion, Councillor Piercey said the shire was not the owner of the jetty and therefore did not have the right to demolish the jetty.

“We should not even be talking about the demolition of the jetty,” she said.

Shire president Victoria Brown described the changing of terminology as playing semantics.

“I do believe the community will come on side and we will have a chance to move forward,” she said.

Speaking against the motion, Councillor McIntyre said Council were moving forward in a much better way.

“At this stage, we will be acknowledging the importance of the old jetty in the design of the new jetty.”

In the chief executive officer’s comment, Matthew Scott said all previously published Shire documents were public and, once released, it was not recommended to make alterations unless correcting inaccurate information.

Mr Scott said future documentation could refer to new terminology, should a Council preference be determined.

With a tender currently out for the design and construction of a jetty, Mr Scott said it would be preemptive to determine wording until submissions had been reviewed. 

The motion was lost 2-7, with Councillor Payne and Councillor Piercey voting for.

The move came just days before the Tender for concept designs for the Tanker Jetty was due to close on Thursday, March 1.

The second motion of the evening saw Councillor Payne move to develop a reconciliation plan, acknowledging Country at all council meetings and raising the Aboriginal Flag at the Council building.

Councillor Payne said there were many significant places of Aboriginal culture in the region, including the internationally recognised Kepwari Wetlands and National Heritage listed site in Cape Le Grand National Park.

“This is about community engagement and inclusion and most importantly reconciliation as we move forward into the future,” she said.

In the chief executive officer’s comment, Mr Scott said Shire representatives had met with representatives from Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Corporation and Esperance Nyungar Aboriginal Corporation and, from the discussions, it had become apparent that Indigenous recognition was a complex issue requiring significant consultation with relevant indigenous organisation’s and the wider community.

“The proposed motion is admirable in its intent and is one of numerous potential solutions that can be investigated to ensure a respectful and supported outcome is achieved,” he said.

“The Shire of Esperance has included a Welcome to Country at all Civic Functions and conducted Acknowledgement to Country at Citizenship Ceremonies over the last four years.”

Shire president Victoria Brown then moved her own motion, to see Council commence formal discussions with the relevant aboriginal organisations and the Circle of Elders to achieve an outcome on aboriginal recognition and a reconciliation plan for the district.

Speaking on the motion, Ms Brown said she recognised the intent of Councillor Payne's motion and acknowledged it was time to commence formal discussions.

The motion brought forward by the shire president was carried 8-1, with Councillor Padgurskis against.