Shire of Capel council backs Gelorup

The Shire of Capel council, 2019. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
The Shire of Capel council, 2019. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

The Shire of Capel is set to advise the state government to find an alternate route for the southern alignment of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road following a heated council meeting on Monday, November 11.

Despite the original motion having been lost by a handful of votes during the electors' meeting on October 18, the motion opposing the state's current plan to bisect Gelorup was brought to council and carried 5-3.

Several members of the gallery questioned why the lost motion had been included and what purpose the meeting served if council would later chose to "ignore" the community vote.

Shire of Capel president Michael Southwell defended the decision to move the motion, stating that the election result the following day was a better indication of what the majority of the community wanted.

"The following day, there was a much more significant vote - one with a far larger sample size," he said.

"There was a change of council and an election result in favour of four candidates who had run on this issue.

"Our council has been reshaped by the election and I am not shying away from my responsibility."

Councillor Kieran Noonan spoke for the motion, referencing the environmental and cultural significance of the Gelorup Corridor and stressing it was the responsibility of the local government to find the alternate route.

"It is time the shire recognised this site," he said.

"This is not a matter of preferring one side of the shire over another and it is not our job to find an alternate route - that is the responsibility of Main Roads.

"This road is incompatible with the area.

"The shire needs to look after its best interests."

Councillors Sebastian Schiano and Doug Kitchen spoke against the motion, stating that the council should not disregard the outcome of the electors meeting and the local government should remain neutral over the state project.

"This motion shows a complete disregard for the electors meeting and I cannot sit by and disregards what the people spoke for on October 18," councillor Schiano said.

"When is this going to stop?," councillor Kitchen said.

"This issue has caused enough upset for our community.

"The skilled people employed by Main Roads have looked at this proposal in the 1980s, the 1990s, the early 2000s and again in the last few years.

"This local government should remain neutral."

Councillor Scott also spoke against the motion, calling on the council to let Main Roads get to work.

Councillor Dave Clews spoke in favour of the motion, insisting that the move was about more than just a tree.

"Yes, the electors meeting was attended by 300 people," he said.

"But, as has been mentioned tonight, about 20,000 people had an opportunity to vote during our local government election and four people were resoundingly voted in."

The motion was just one of a suite of changes moved at the meeting, including the time of council meetings, the implementation of an audio recording system and the way in which minutes record the vote.

Councillor Southwell also moved for the 2020/21 budget to be prepared on the basis of no net increase in rates revenue and that council acknowledge the tourism and marketing potential of Gelorup.

Several of the motions saw robust debate among councillors, with jeers from the gallery prompting a 10-minute meeting adjournment to regain order.

The changes come less than a week after councillor Southwell marked the beginning of his term as president by ending closed-door meetings in a bid to provide greater transparency.

Councillor Southwell's appointment as president marked the end of councillor Murray Scott's 18-year term in the role.