A majority of councillors have voted to forge ahead with a costly review of the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s dumped wards system, despite risks pending State Government laws could render the exercise pointless. Four of six sitting councillors last week supported the review, which would involve “significant” staff time as well as $15,000 for a consultant to engage residents on their views about reintroducing the system axed back in 2017. In advancing the proposal, deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum and new Cr David Binks reiterated comments that ratepayers frequently raised the old wards system as a key mechanism to ensure all views across the shire were heard. “This (review) is clearly going to indicate to the council the desire and interest of a review of current wards,” Cr Meldrum said. The information was needed and the review was not a decision on whether to introduce wards, she said. Cr Binks said the review was “about hearing the views of the people of the community”. “We know there’s a cost involved,” he said. “Of course it was never going to be free.” However, concerns were also noted that Local Government Minister John Carey was ready to introduce a proposed review of the Local Government Act in Parliament later this year which included the possibility the Shire presidency could be decided by popular vote separate from the election of new councillors. The revised legislation recommended all local governments in the top two bands hold elections for mayors and presidents, already in place for some, such as the City of Bunbury. The review noted the potential to change the number of councillors serving the Shire as part of careful ward-size calculations, which would add to costs. If the presidency became an extra council seat, separate from elected members, those calculations could become null. Cr Kylie Kennaugh failed in a bid to defer the review until after the State Government decision. She noted the expenditure came the same night the new budget passed with a 4 per cent rates increase and a Shire undertaking it was watching efficiency costs closely. “Our community doesn’t want us spending money willy-nilly,” she said. Cr Brian Daniel said any outcome from the Shire review could be “stifled” by the State Government’s next moves. “I’m quite saddened the deferment has been knocked back,” he said. “It’s going to cost a significant amount of not only financial resources, but human resources.” Chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown confirmed in addition to the consultancy, “Staff time will be significant.” The Shire’s community engagement team would be required to work alongside the consultant as part of public workshops and surveys.