Spend spread questioned by residents

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River says Cowaramup residents have indicated a preference for unsealed roads as a way of maintaining the town’s “informal” feel after its priorities were questioned amid a pricey planning stoush.

Soon after the Times reported councillors had approved up to $70,000 to fight a State Administrative Tribunal appeal over a rejected BP petrol station, Cowaramup resident and business owner Ellen Marshall raised questions on the Shire’s management of ratepayer funds.

Mrs Marshall told the Times many roads in Cowaramup were unsealed and riddled with potholes, culverts remained blocked, and leaf litter continued to build up, posing a fire hazard.

“We go without rubbish collection, we have gravel roads, there are no street lights, which they say isn’t in the budget... but they’re spending all this money on a court case that benefits the few,” she said.

Mrs Marshall said she knew of others who held similar views but were reluctant to speak up in the tight-knit community.

“Somebody else has to speak up for the rest of the town,” she said.

“Most of them will just mosey along and do their own thing, meanwhile they’ll have more and more services stripped away from them because the centre of town doesn’t get stuff taken away from them, the outskirts do.”

Acting infrastructure services director David Nicholson said road culverts could be unblocked if reported and defended the state of the town’s roads.

“A number of residents have contacted the Shire advising they do not wish for several roads to be sealed in order to maintain the informal character of the area,” he said.

Waste, health and ranger services manager Ruth Levett responded to another of the core concern, saying kerbside general waste and recycling collection service would soon be available to most Cowaramup residents after a recent audit of waste services.

Saharan Daze owner Freya Duignan supported Mrs Marshall’s calls for improved infrastructure and services, but did not believe it had to come at the expense of the SAT appeal.

“I would love to see some money spent on roads and upgraded... its an absolute hazard. I’d love to see that, but there’s room for both,” she said.

“I’m a supporter of small business and if the BP does go in, it’s obviously going to affect the post office with newspapers and magazines, it will affect the cafes in town, and the petrol station on the door step, the bike shop – all sorts of things.”

Mrs Marshall said she had no stance on the BP development but highlighted how the poor roads often forced people to turn back, directing customers away from businesses on the unsealed strips.

Up to $70,000 on legal costs was approved 6-1 earlier this month, with deputy shire president Kylie Kennaugh voting against the expenditure.

Shire president Ian Earl later told the Times despite initially voting for the service station, he backed the Shire’s position on the appeal.

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