DLGSC says it can’t say whether the Shire of Gingin is being investigated

1109
The DLGSC says it can’t comment on whether an investigation is underway but anyone who wishes to submit an allegation of a minor or serious breach of legislation it enforces, should follow the process outlined on its website. Picture: Yanchep News Online

NEITHER the Shire of Gingin nor the Department of Local Government will clarify if the shire is being investigated due to complaints and issues raised by ratepayers and residents.

On March 12 the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) said the department had to adhere to WA Local Government Act confidentiality obligations.

“This means we cannot comment on whether there is an active investigation or complaint or provide any details on progress of matters being looked into,’’ a spokeswoman said.

“Anyone who wishes to submit an allegation of a minor or serious breach of legislation we enforce, should follow the process outlined on the DLGSC website.”

DLGSC was responding to questions from Yanchep News Online about complaints by residents and ratepayers who had raised their concerns with Yanchep News Online.

These questions included whether a DLGSC senior investigations officer had met with some of the losing candidates in last October’s local government election and whether the department had received complaints about chief executive officer Aaron Cook whose resignation was announced on March 6.

Yanchep News Online also asked if one of the complaints was about the purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd, Gingin for future sporting land and concern that President Wayne Fewster had taken part in meetings and negotiations when he should have disclosed any conflicts of interest.

Council minutes show the potential purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd was an item at the September 19, 2023 council meeting where the councillors agreed to keep the resolution confidential until negotiations were complete.

The minutes say Cr Fewster was at this meeting but there are no disclosures of interest recorded.

In the January minutes in the monthly financial report in the capital acquisitions section on page 116 it lists $715,000 against Purchase of recreational land – Dewar Rd.

But then on March 8 the shire put on its website and also published a public notice in The West Australian on March 9 saying it proposed to borrow loan funds of $746,293 for a 20-year term at an interest rate not exceeding 6 per cent resulting from the recent purchase of land at Lot 7 Dewar Rd.

Less than two hours after Yanchep News Online asked the shire questions on March 14, including about the purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd, the shire posted on its website that it wished to clarify details about the recent public notice regarding its proposal to borrow funds for the recent purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd.

By deadline yesterday the shire had not responded to Yanchep News Online about any of the questions.

But the statement on the shire’s website attributed to Cr Fewster says at the September 2023 ordinary meeting, the council resolved to purchase Lot 7 Dewar Rd with the view of securing a big enough parcel in close proximity to the Gingin townsite and Gingin Golf Club for the purpose of a future sporting precinct (forward planning).

“Settlement for the purchase of this land occurred on January 29, 2024,’’ the statement said.

“One of the council’s responsibilities is to forward plan for future land use and ensure the strategic nature of such planning fits within this objective.

“The current sport and recreation complex in Gingin has, and continues to have, major issues with drainage as well as not being large enough to cater for our growing community.

“While it is not envisaged the recent purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd will be needed for this purpose in the short term (within 20 years), the opportunity to secure a large enough parcel of land to cater for future development near Gingin was acted upon for such future planning purposes.

“The reason for taking out the loan for the purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Road is to amortise the cost over future generations and not burden current ratepayers.

“It should be noted that just as previous generations set aside land for future uses eg, Tonkin and Roe Highways, and Joondalup Arena (which is a similar size in area to Lot 7 Dewar Rd), the council too has made the decision to purchase this land as legacy for future generations.’’