Core services top priorities

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

A Shire-commissioned satisfaction report looking into the Community Strategic Plan 2036 last year found widespread concern about the focus on non-core local government issues.

The November 2019 report by marketing agency Markyt was not previously released to the public.

It found surveyed residents placed value for money from rates, waste disposal, roads, and economic development as their highest priorities. Conservation and environmental management, playgrounds and parks, and feral and domestic animal control were also identified as important.

The report gave the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River an overall performance score of 69 — slightly above the industry standard — by combining survey respondent scores for the region as a place to live with their rating of the local government.

The Shire itself scored 53 per cent on performance, below the industry average of 56, while the region’s livability was 10 per cent above the average at 85 per cent.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s libraries, and support for festivals and markets, were listed as the strongest results.

Residents criticised planning and building services, community consultation, a lack of focus on Augusta, and council leadership, all of which came with a “poor” ranking.

Parking, a lack of “focus on servicing the local community ahead of tourism” and food, noise, and pollution management also rated lower. Focusing on core issues and avoiding “issues outside of the scope of local government” were cited in the survey’s feedback.

On value for rates, the Shire scored lower, at 35 per cent, while council leadership was rated at 46 per cent in performance satisfaction. “Community members who support the Shire taking a more active leadership and advocacy role in social issues tend to be happier with how the Shire is performing,” the report said.

“Support for a more active leadership and advocacy role tends to be greater among females, those with primary school-aged children, and living in Margaret River and Cowaramup.

“Conversely, community members who oppose the Shire taking a more active leadership and advocacy role tend to be less happy with how the Shire is currently performing.

“They are more likely to be males, seniors, to live in Augusta, Prevelly or Gnarabup, or in rural areas. Their priorities relate to core council services — roads, rubbish and rates.”

“They would like the Shire to focus on core services and avoid issues they consider to be outside the scope of local government.”

In comments included in the report, ratepayers left no confusion about what they wanted to see.

The survey identified high rates, spending on non-core issues, a lack of focus on essential services, and Shire staff expenses..

“Community-driven actions” listed in the report included financial sustainability, focus on essential services, reduction of Shire running costs, and “fairer allocation of funding across all town sites and rural areas”.

Residents urged the Shire to “find a balance” between economic growth, protecting the environment, and local industries and tourism, with calls for more investment in Augusta and Cowaramup.

The survey was conducted prior to the main street redevelopment and introduction of the three-bin system.

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