Ordinary Council Meeting – 26 May 2020

It was a 3:1 scorecard against ‘best case’ Council decisions this month (in my view). More on that below.

However, May’s Cottesloe Council Meeting also marked an important moment in the combined government response to institutional child abuse.

National Redress Scheme

Council voted unanimously to participate with the WA Government in the National Redress Scheme that was one of key outcomes of the 2013 Royal Commission. This is an important step in overcoming past hurt and moving forward. This item went through ‘en bloc’ with several other items, but it is in my view worthy of special note, given its impact within our community.

3:1 Decision Outcomes

There were several matters at tonight’s meeting that I felt held opportunity to achieve an even better result for our community – both in terms of the practical outcome, and the effect of it on the cohesion and strength of our community.

Skatepark consultation survey – it is fantastic that the Skatepark project is moving ahead, after first being raised by local skaters in September 2017. A potential site has been found at Grant Marine Park, that may fit a suitable sized skate park and allow a playground upgrade. The consultation survey however differentiates those residents who don’t think we need a skatepark from those that do – so that those that may not think we need a skatepark are only given the option to make “any other comments”, but all other survey respondents are able to answer “Yes or No” to whether Grant Marine Park is a suitable site and then a specific question on “Why or Why Not”. I believe that this has scope to marginalise the ‘no to a skatepark’ views, so whilst I’m not one of those, I exercised my vote against the survey in the interests of those who may well get marginalised. I am solidly in favour of working to find solutions and outcomes that do not just ‘pick a winner (A or B)‘ but strive for inclusivity and more nuanced and better value results. I believe a better survey structure was attainable. Time will tell if the survey results analysis can overcome this.

As they say, “we design our cities”, they don’t design themselves, so it is up to us (particularly elected Councillors) to get the best outcomes – and to be open to new, evolved processes or thinking that may get us there.

“PSP” Tree Planting – 60 new 500 litre trees will be planted along the PSP cycle path from Grant St to Victoria St to replace the 30 trees removed to put the path through. This was in my view a great ‘value add’ decision by Council in 2018, to increase shade and canopy along the PSP, amongst other benefits. However, due to difficulties placing new trees close to the PSP in one narrow area, about 13 new trees will go along the roadway on Curtin Ave, quite a way from the PSP. I believed an even better result was possible, if those 13 trees were placed in other areas closer to the PSP, or planted to deliver shade. I was disappointed that Council process didn’t allow for an even better design for these 13 trees (costing about $15,000).

I believe it is possible for Council to ‘value add’ when asked to approve plans like this, not just ‘wave it through’ or rubber stamp. Council’s decision on North Street Store (below) shows this is possible if there is a political will. I think there are limits to the ‘Agenda Forum & Council Meeting’ process we use, and “human centred governance” can evolve Council’s decision-making and outcomes.

I voted against the planting program – to signal a strong desire to collectively “do as best we can” in decisions affecting residents, which will be with us for decades.

Green dots show new trees planted along the road, not the PSP (straight path at the very bottom)

ProCott Funding – each year Council charges ratepayers in Cottesloe Village an extra (on average) $1,000 each in rates, which is used to fund ProCott, the Village business association, to ‘improve’ (and promote) the Village. As a former ProCott member and Co-Chair, I know how much good this $100,000 in annual funding to ProCott can achieve for its member businesses. However, we are in ‘unprecedented times’, and if the additional $1,000 is paid by a business (or passed on from a landlord), it is a significant cost. Many Village businesses cannot currently trade, or will struggle ‘starting back up’ as restrictions ease. For that reason, I think Council needs to ask the ratepaying businesses if they do want that additional $1,000 to be levied this year. It is as simple as asking them that question.

I voted in favour of notifying the Village ratepayers of the intention to levy that additional ~$1,000, so we can get feedback: do they want to pay it this year, or is it better kept by them directly to help survival, or used in other ways that will directly support struggling business.

Tree Species Change – this was a little curious, in my view. A Council majority voted to change the Street Tree Masterplan tree species for just 2 trees at the back of an apartment property, without consulting with the other 3 or 4 residents opposite who directly look onto them. Whilst a great result for the apartment, it could still have been achieved whilst also consulting the others, and making it an inclusive decision. Council’s other ‘species change’ decisions have involved consultation with affected neighbours. I can only speculate why it didn’t happen here, but I did seek amendment to the motion to allow consultation to happen, without luck.

North Street Store – one ‘win’ for evolvedCouncil process was discussion on how to proceed with the current SAT appeal by North Street Store to December’s decision to halt unauthorised uses. Whilst a confidential matter (due to it being an active proceeding before SAT), I am able to say Council’s collective willingness to work collaboratively and constructively, using the limited flexibility within our strict meeting procedures, is a bolt of bright light that shows Council is able to work for “best outcomes” if it wishes to. I particularly acknowledge Cr Barrett for using her numbers to drive this process.

Earlier tonight, a resident had asked a Public Question on why our Budget processes cannot be improved to be more transparent and inclusive, as many other Councils already do. I support this, and believe it is not only that process that can be improved. If Council wishes to, it can look at better, more evolved ways to go about its decision-making. There are many examples in WA and worldwide of local governments doing this. Tonight’s decision on ‘NSS’ shows it is possible. We should do it more.

On the substance of this decision, all I can say is that Council took a proactive approach to finding a mutually workable outcome.

I am very hopeful the way we voted to do this will be met with an equally constructive and collaborative approach by the Store.

In summary, whilst there are many areas I believe Council can evolve and ‘do even better‘, there was at least one where we did.

It is a glimmer of hope that we are able to work constructively toward better public value for all of Cottesloe.

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