ANZAC trees to stay as voting rights disputed

TWO THREATENED Anzac Memorial Park trees have been spared the axe – at least temporarily – after the Toodyay Shire Council agreed last month to work harder instead to seek money for a new heavyhaulage bypass route around the town. 
The trees stand on a corner of Toodyay’s ill-suited temporary bypass, where local protesters faced arrest by police last August when shire contractors arrived with chainsaws. 

An alternative proposal to re-route heavy trucks through the town’s busy Stirling Terrace shopping precinct was also scrapped – at least temporarily. 

The issue has divided the town since last July, when councillors voted to remove the two tall lemon-scented gums without telling ratepayers or the Toodyay RSL. 

The charge was led by Shire President David Dow who – with his wife, Cr Judy Dow – owns two properties on the existing heavy truck route in Hamersley Street. 

They claimed a right to take part in the debate and vote because they said they held an “interest in common” with a significant number of other ratepayers who use the heavy-haulage route.

This was disputed by Cr Sally Craddock, who said the Hamersley Street properties owned by the shire’s two town ward councillors meant the pair were "very much involved in this business". LOCAL GOVERNMENT law does not
define what a “significant” interest in common might be. 

However, WA Local Government Department “operational guidelines” on disclosure of financial interest say the requirement “need not be as many as half of electors or ratepayers but clearly one or two per cent would not be enough”. 

President Dow and his wife are among an estimated 70 residents who live or own properties on the town’s heavy-haulage route, which accounts for about 1.9 per cent of all Toodyay electors and ratepayers 

The pair left the chamber while other councillors discussed what to do before deciding 5-1 – with Cr Sally Craddock against and Cr Brian Rayner absent – to allow the pair back in to vote on the bypass. 

They also voted 6-0 for President Dow to vacate the chair and to appoint Deputy President Therese Chitty to run the debate.

 Cr Judy Dow sought to remove the word “indefinitely” from deferring any action on the trees until all funding options were exhausted but her amendment lapsed for lack  of support. 

Shire CEO Stan Scott said feedback about re-routing heavy trucks down Stirling Terrace – which was opposed by the Toodyay Chamber Commerce and Industry – showed it was “not a good alternative”.

However, it could be “revisited” if the shire could not get funds to build a new route. 

Cr Eric Twine – a Nunile broad-acre Dows vote on truck route past their properties farmer – said he opposed dropping the option to switch the truck route to Stirling Terrace because “one group strongly put their view forward but nobody else was asked”.

He convinced most other councillors – including President Dow and Cr Judy Dow – to add the words “without further resolution of council” to an 8-0 decision to “not proceed with designating Stirling Terrace as a restricted access vehicle route”. 

Councillors also agreed to apply for money from the WA Government’s new $48 million fund for agricultural commodity routes. 

If successful, the shire would use money to improve the town’s existing heavy-haulage route, with “first priority” for the corner where the two Anzac Memorial Park trees stand.

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