Esperance Shire Town Ward candidates speak to voters

Candidates pitch new ideas at forum

Live streaming council meetings, becoming a regional recycling hub and making Esperance a 'migrant-friendly' town were some of the ideas pitched at a Meet the Candidates forum.

The forum hosted today, October 8, by the Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry saw eight out of the 10 candidates for three spots on the Town Ward make their cases.

Kevin Neale, Colin Stewart, Jo-Anne O'Donnell, Richard Grant, Jennifer Obourne, Ron Chambers, Nils Blumann and Barry Wroth attended, with apologies from Cr Ron Padgurskis and Brian Pearce.

Mr Neale said he wants a new jetty ASAP, an environmentally suitable landfill site close to town, to establish self-sufficient parking bays to encourage travellers to stay overnight and to monitor rules to improve beach safety.

Mr Stewart said he stood for council to address rate-rises and wanted to see the jetty renewed with timber rather than replaced with steel and concrete.

"My opinion is that the jetty is being thrown away because it could be renewed," he said.

Mr Stewart voiced opposition to council's proposal to build a tip in Merivale, describing it as "horrendous".

He said he would like to explore the opportunities of becoming a 'migrant-friendly town' to help address issues such as the staffing shortage at the Esperance Aged Care Facility.

To reduce waste, the candidate said he would support the return of roadside collections.

Mrs O'Donnell said her priorities would be reviewing rate rises to cap increases at CPI, deferring non-urgent projects for land tax relief, reviewing council's tip proposal at Kirwan Road and improving council's decision-making and consultation process.

"Too many decisions, which concern the community, are being decided without consultation or reaching out to residents. We need more community forums on decisions which affect our town," she said.

Mrs O'Donnell cited the Community Perception Survey which found overwhelming disapproval with council's transparency.

"We really need to listen to that. There are too many issues decided behind closed doors," she said.

Mr Grant said he was running because of the lack of governance and consultation at the shire, and to develop tourism.

He pledged to end what he described as council's 'one-way' communication through Facebook posts, flyers and media releases.

Mr Grant said planning should be based on what the shire could afford, rather than putting rates up to fund the goals of its financial plans.

Ms Obourne said she would 'go to where the people are' to communicate with constituents, continue door-knocking as a councillor and proposed live-streaming council meetings.

"If it was live-streamed you could be doing [daily] things and living your life and have that on as well. And if you missed it, you could replay it at a time that was convenient to you," she said.

Ms Obourne told voters she would take direction from the EPA regarding the proposed tip site. On the issue of waste, she pitched the idea of Esperance having its own recycling hub.

"How much money do we spend transporting all of our waste from a to b?... Federally, they are going to ban exporting our waste and it is going to be all in house. So why not be the recycling hub of the South West? Our Shark Lake area is underutilised," she said.

Ms Obourne said she supported the council's current plans for the new jetty, responsible rates management, installing CCTV cameras in crime hotspots, increasing rural road funding and working with the aged care facility to recruit and retain staff.

Mr Chambers said he stood for open communication between the community on council and said he would like to see communication better targeted.

The candidate said he did not have an agenda going into council and was prepared to talk to those affected and the broader community in regards to each decision.

Mr Chambers said he would wait for the EPA to assess the Merivale tip proposal and that he supported the shire's process in getting a new jetty. He described the division over the jetty issue as an "energy vampire".

"I believe if we change the process now and we go back to square one, it will destroy the community in the next four to five years."

Mr Blumann said council needed to improve its governance, be more transparent and improve communications with the Esperance Ratepayers and Electors Association.

He said the jetty had to be replaced, but how we go about replacing it needed to be reviewed.

"That jetty... could have cruise ships berth and have tankers as well."

Mr Blumann said council should work with the police and the community to battle the scourge of methamphetamine.

"It has to be a complete community effort to eradicate the supply in town," he said.

Mr Wroth said ratepayers were having no say in many decisions, which was leading to community 'discontent'.

"I believe this is because so many items are being hand-balled to the CEO under delegated authority," he said.

"Ratepayers want to see their councillors in action, not be rubber-stampers."

Mr Wroth admitted some of this was due to changes in legislation and said councillors should stand up and take on the process.

He said council should pressure relevant government departments to battle broader issues in town and reduce bureaucracy and red-tape.

Mr Wroth said the jetty issue had been resolved and it was time to move on.