A robust debate among Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale councillors over the distribution of federal funding has seen the motives of some members called into question.
The row was prompted by a disagreement over the distribution of more than $673,000 in federal government funding during Monday evening’s council meeting.
Though shire officers had provided their own list of options, councillor Keira McConkey moved an alternate motion to use the funding to deliver a variety of infrastructure projects, including a new nature playground at Briggs Park and a new footpath on Richardson Street.
The main aim of the proposal was to create a space for young families, which featured a nature playground, parking and public toilets all within a stone’s throw of the Byford town centre.
The proposal had a two-pronged approach, with the aim of also addressing the ongoing crime and anti-social behaviour plaguing the park.
But the vote was split 4/4, with Shire president Michelle Rich using her casting vote against the motion.
Instead, councillor Rich moved her own motion calling for the funding to instead be spent on additional footpaths, road safety initiatives and a new car park at Briggs Park, alluding to councillors having their own hidden agendas.
But several items later tensions flared again, prompting councillors McConkey and Rob Coales to leave the council chambers.
Councillor McConkey told Examiner Newspapers that she was disappointed by the outcome and the events that unfolded, labelling the allocation of funding a missed opportunity for the community.
“We don’t currently have a space like this in the shire and it would have provided local stimulus to businesses,” she said.
“This project also presented an opportunity to address anti-social behaviour at Briggs Park and establish the space as a family-friendly area.
“I’m disappointed in the level of debate that took place.
“In my opinion, the council chambers should be a safe place for all councillors to respectfully debate and remain free of personal attacks and accusations.”
In a statement, councillor Rich said she believed the projects endorsed by the council would deliver economic stimulus and improved social infrastructure for our community through the delivery of new footpaths throughout the shire, road safety initiatives and a new car park at Briggs Park.
“I support councillor McConkey’s advocacy for a destination playground in the shire, as shown in my continued support for a high amenity nature themed playground and water splash park,” she said.
“I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of our community in the lead up to the March 2021 State Election for funding to deliver the nature themed playground and water splash park for the benefit of our young families and children.”