On 30 June 2013, the State Government of Western Australia announced its preferred model to redefine the boundaries of the metropolitan local government areas in Perth, reducing areas from 30 to 14.
Reform, in some measure, is inevitable. Local governments, property owners and any party with an interest in land should have regard to assets and plan for the future boundaries.
On 4 October 2013, the metropolitan local governments were required to submit responses and alternative models to the Minister for Local Government (Minister). The Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB) will consider these submissions and submit its recommendations to the Minister in June 2014. The Governor’s orders will be issued pursuant to the Minister’s considerations by September 2014, in order to allow for the creation of the new local governments by mid- 2015, and subsequent commencement in October 2015.
Eighteen proposals were received. These proposals will be evaluated, and rejected or modified, by the LGAB for progression to the Minister.
The Local Government Act 1995 will be amended to facilitate the reform. This will include amendments to current poll provisions. Further, the LGAB membership and powers will be expanded. The Governor will have transitional powers to make regulations for local government if required.
Until new local planning schemes are prepared, local governments will be responsible for administration of local planning schemes. There is no current timeframe for the development of new town planning schemes. Transitional arrangements under the current regulations provide for the existing planning scheme to apply to a district impacted by an area change. Therefore, until new town planning schemes are defined, the only significant difference is that development applications will be assessed by different parties.
This is really not a time to panic – the process has commenced and contingencies are in place to manage the government’s expectations and responses. Other local government reforms have occurred nationwide, and voluntarily within Western Australia. No significant impact on ratepayers has occurred as a result of this process.
It is important to consider the following:
- Development Assessment Panels will be re-established (post-July 2015) to accord with the new boundaries.
- There will be no automatic adoption of any existing planning policies of abolished local governments. Consideration should be to the area which governs your property. If a particular planning policy is conducive with a potential future development, it may be beneficial to ensure a development application is submitted by mid-next year.
- There is no detail currently provided about the continued operation of statutory development contribution plans and funds, particularly where a new local government will overlap or divide existing contribution areas. At present, therefore, it is important to ensure any developer contributions made are properly applied. A statutory authority is required to return such contributions if it is not utilised for the purpose it was collected.
- Local governments should be undertaking audit processes of contracts and leases, assets, infrastructure, trust funds, reserve accounts and financial awards. Land owners and other associated parties need to consider how such an audit may affect their interests, both current and future.