Business vote on agenda

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Candidates Kylie Kennaugh, Brian Daniel, Paula Cristoffanini, Rob McDonald and Peter Griffyn are seeking election to the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council.
Camera IconCandidates Kylie Kennaugh, Brian Daniel, Paula Cristoffanini, Rob McDonald and Peter Griffyn are seeking election to the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council. Credit: Warren Hately

Most of the council candidates vying for your vote this month in local government elections want to see greater support shown to the region’s business sector.

IT developer Peter Griffyn said the Shire’s failure to support local businesses was the main driver for his tilt at a council seat.

Mr Griffyn was Chamber of Commerce president during the first of two occasions when the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s lucrative cleaning contracts went to Perth firms.

While he recognised local government had a raft of laws to follow, and conflicts of interest had to be carefully managed, Mr Griffyn said he was campaigning to help build the strength of existing businesses in the region.

“An active Shire local purchasing policy is a core foundation of realising a circular economy,” he said. “Within the law, the Shire should vehemently encourage any non-local tenderer to utilise competitive local sub-contractors to deliver the majority of the work.”

If allowed, he’d like to see the $150,000 tender threshold raised higher to help more local companies bid on projects.

Chalets operator and volunteer firefighter Rob McDonald also backed more work for local firms.

“Much more can and needs to be done to ensure local contractors and suppliers are being engaged for services required by the Shire,” he said.

“If Perth-based contractors are bidding significantly lower prices, then we need to determine how they are being able to do this and also look at the total end cost of the services to ensure that we are actually achieving the best result.”

Candidate Brian Daniel also said supporting local business was a “major focus area”.

“The Shire’s existing practices would need to be reviewed,” he said. “However, this needs to be done in close collaboration with the business sector.”

Clean energy campaigner Paula Cristoffanini worried big tenders “indirectly discriminate” against small local firms. “I would support the Shire breaking up services into smaller parts, giving local businesses a greater ability to compete,” she said.

“I also support the Shire’s tendering workshops helping locals learn how to tender competitively against big players.

“I would like to ensure that any promises to buy local made by successful contractors are met.”

But Kylie Kennaugh, who voted on a past cleaning contract and has experienced the realities of life on the council from 2013-2017, said ratepayers were also concerned about Shire costs.

“There is always room for fine-tuning, but I believe that generally our Shire does a good job of balancing value for money with the imperative to support local business,” she said.

“At the end of the day ratepayers are very concerned about how much they pay, and while local must always be the first point of call, balancing ratepayers’ money with timing, capacity and availability remain an ongoing challenge,” she said.

Most candidates backed Mr Griffyn’s proposal to run workshops for local businesses to help their competitiveness.

In his election materials, Mr Griffyn said the Shire was not meeting its own policy objectives with $18 million flowing last financial year to providers outside shire boundaries.

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