The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has defended its efforts to tackle the region’s housing crisis, but its hands are tied without further State and Federal Government intervention. Recent council candidates Tracey Muir and David Binks, plus re-elected deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum, flagged the shortage of affordable housing and skyrocketing rents as key issues during their election campaign last October. However, those members mostly declined to comment on any outcomes they had secured since election, with Shire president Paula Cristoffanini providing a statement on behalf of councillors and the Shire directorate. “The Shire is actively involved in supporting initiatives that could bring about solutions for current levels of housing stress,” Cr Cristoffanini said. “We understand that a lack of affordable rental accommodation has been a common issue across multiple local government areas in WA since the pandemic began.” The Shire president said lobbying the State Government and candidates, as well as close liaison with WA’s Department of Communities, were among a raft of steps taken. The Shire was an active partner in a new study investigating accommodation needs for workers across the South West, and contributed support to not-for-profit Just Home Margaret River during the past four years, including involvement in ongoing forums looking at housing options. While the Shire ruled out an ex-Water Corporation site for public housing on Terry Road in Margaret River, it was working on a location in Augusta, was in dialogue with Communities, and extended an invitation to Development WA “to consider partnering with the Shire to explore options for innovative housing solutions within the shire,” she said. The Shire’s short-stay accommodation planning laws — potentially under threat from the State Government’s review of the sector — were also cited as a big factor defending the region from even worse exposure due to homes taken off the market to serve tourists instead. Residents have clamoured online about the lack of help from the Shire, despite housing being a State and Federal responsibility. Cr Muir acknowledged housing was “a critical issue” in the shire requiring work “across all layers of government”. “As a new councillor, I have tried to learn more about what the possible causes of the housing crises are and what the local government’s sphere of influence is,” she said. “I have also spoken with local housing advocates to understand the depth of the problem in our shire and what opportunities there are to help. “The Shire does have a number of initiatives underway,” she said. “We are cognisant of this and are working on a number of fronts to address the issue.” Cr Ian Earl said the housing market, developments like the Witchcliffe Eco-Village, and subdivisions coming online would take some of the pressure off. But he acknowledged the time before that relief come would be difficult for residents.