Community leaders have reported mixed reactions from a star-studded appearance by Premier Mark McGowan and his Cabinet at the end of last month. The question-and-answer town hall meeting at the Margaret River Heart on Sunday, November 20, was an invite-only chance for community groups and leading public figures to raise issues of key concern, with the environment, housing, State Government bureaucracy and expansion for the local school and hospital all on the agenda. However, facing questions from local experts, many of the responses lacked conviction and failed to make solid undertakings on many of the crucial concerns raised, residents told the Times. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini described the meeting as a “valuable opportunity”. Cr Cristoffanini said she hoped issues around the fire-ravaged Boranup forest, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, and housing shortages would all be considered in greater depth now MPs had listened to the community. “We intend to continue to liaise with the State Government to look for solutions with regard to these matters,” the Shire president said. Previous Shire president Pam Townsend also attended and said the meeting revealed much about the calibre of WA’s elite politicians and how well they listened to residents. “We really got a chance to judge the ministers who were asked to speak,” she said. “The Premier was kept busy providing follow-up information that was lacking in some of the answers.” Margaret River Senior High School board chair Barbara Maidment noted the focus on the environment allowed some MPs the chance to go unquestioned. A better approach would have been individual group meetings with ministerial portfolios which could then culminate in the town hall Q&A, Dr Maidment said. “It was a bit of a parade, but not sure how else you’d handle it,” she told the Times. Margaret River Coastal Residents Association president Adrian Wilson said politicians did not really come to grips with the core issues raised about the sustainability of the environment and the region’s high visitation and population growth. “It was acknowledged that the Capes region is a biodiversity hotspot facing increasing pressure from rapid population growth and climate change,” he said. The lack of housing, comments from the Premier about further regulation of Airbnb-style stays, and coastal protection showed the proposed Gnarabup resort, backed by the State Government, was at odds with sustainability goals and residents’ beach amenity. Margaret River Regional Environment Centre spokesperson Peta Goodwin said she hoped MPs “heard” the audience focus on the environment. “The recaps of actions already taken were fairly standard political responses and the big budget figures – meaningless really unless you are told specifically who’s getting how much, what for, and when,” she said. Broadcoaster and food guru Ian Parmenter said tourism and hospitality operators were under-represented at the event, though he welcomed the visit. More was needed to address a critical lack of housing for workers needed in those vital industries, Mr Parmenter said.