We reported back in October, that the Western Australian State Government is to make major reforms to the number of local governments in metropolitan Perth. The reforms were subject to a legal challenge in the Supreme Court, which was heard on 25 November 2014.
The applicants, being the City of Subiaco, City of South Perth and the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale (Councils) challenged the process by which the Minister and the Local Government Advisory Board sought to implement the amalgamations. The Councils also sought an injunction, which would have prevented the State Government from continuing with its reforms.
The application was dismissed by His Honour Chief Justice Wayne Martin. His Honour found no evidence that the reform process, undertaken by the Minister for Local Government and the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB), was conducted improperly.
The basis of the Councils’ challenge focused on an allegation that there had been a denial of procedural fairness to the Councils during the reform process. His Honour disagreed with the Councils’ position noting it was impossible to draw the inference asserted by the Councils.
As a result of His Honour’s findings, the application failed.
Where to from here
The decision allows the State Government to continue with progressing the reform process, however the legislative changes associated with the reforms must still be passed by parliament. The State Government has commented that it will introduce legislation into Parliament in 2014, paving the way for the reform process to occur in 2015.
A second period of reform will occur either in 2015 or 2016. This will see the State Government introduce legislation to allow for the City of Perth to amalgamate with the City of Vincent together with recommended boundary changes to the City of Subiaco and perhaps, the City of South Park under a City of Perth Act. It is envisaged that the City of Perth Act will give the city special powers as a capital city and incorporate a number of the State’s key assets within its boundaries. A number of western suburbs councils, which currently have some of these assets within their boundaries, will also merge as one.