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Voters debate endorsed changes to Vasse, Warren-Blackwood electorates of Libby Mettam, Jane Kelsbie

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie.
Camera IconWarren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

Capes regional politics just received a shake-up, with the WA Parliament endorsing significant boundary changes to the Vasse and Warren-Blackwood electorates.

Under the changes, Liberal Party Leader Libby Mettam will lose chunks of the Augusta-Margaret River shire including Cowaramup and Gracetown while taking on the Shire of Capel.

Meanwhile, the electorate Labor tyro Jane Kelsbie snatched from the Nationals WA at the last turn will absorb the entire Augusta-Margaret River region despite her Denmark office location now at the distant extreme edge of the electorate.

The reforms come as part of State Government moves, enabled by Labor’s dominance in Parliament.

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Ms Mettam told the Times she saw the changes to her electorate as “moderate” and nothing would change her advocacy due to being the region’s sole Liberal Lower House MP.

“I am often asked by residents in the surrounding Labor seats such as Warren-Blackwood to fight for them on issues they feel are being neglected and I will continue to do so,” Ms Mettam said.

“We know WA Labor does not care about the regions and has turned a blind eye to the myriad of health, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and education issues impacting this region.”

Despite losing Gracetown and Cowaramup, the MLA pledged to keep pushing local issues regardless of the seat changes.

Changes to Warren-Blackwood were previously backed by the Augusta-Margaret River Shire council and MP Ms Kelsbie said she was committed to working across communities in the lead-up to the 2025 election.

“I’m pleased to welcome the rest of the shire of Augusta-Margaret River to the electorate and look forward to being their strong, regional voice too in WA Parliament,” Ms Kelsbie said.

Cowaramup resident and community activist Lisa Bell said despite Ms Mettam’s crucial support on local concerns, shifting the townsite into a Labor-held seat might help to produce greater results as Labor worked to retain Warren-Blackwood at the next poll.

“Libby works tirelessly for her electorate and has been a strong advocate for our town. She genuinely cares,” Ms Bell said.

“Cowaramup will continue to be shafted by the State Government for the foreseeable future while we are in a safe Liberal seat.”

Gracetown-Cowaramup Bay Community group chair Richard Muirhead said he’d welcome the chance to win Ms Kelsbie’s help in acting on vital tourism issues affecting the region.

“Jane Kelsbie will have more influence on the State Government’s support for this area than Libby Mettam did in Opposition,” he told the Times.

The State Government was focused on maximising the region’s tourism potential, but wasn’t following through on “visitor infrastructure”.

“The tourism ‘product’ is suffering and locals are experiencing the overcrowding of the limited infrastructure that is there,” Mr Muirhead said.

“Unless this is addressed, visitors will turn their backs on this region.”

Cowaramup Primary School board chair Joel Hall lamented the loss of Ms Mettam’s advocacy for its campaign for vital upgrades and expansion.

“Her tireless work for our benefit will be sorely missed if we lose her from our electorate,” Mr Hall said.

Capel Shire president Daniel Kitchen did not respond to inquiries.

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