Council meets with Minister for Fisheries; Regional Development

Published on Thursday, 4 April 2024 at 10:38:20 AM

Council and Executive Staff met with the Minister for Regional Development, Disability Services, Fisheries, Seniors and Ageing, and Volunteering, Don Punch, on Wednesday, 3 April 2024.

The Minister gave a quick brief on his Regional Development portfolio, and Councillors advocated for the region, speaking frankly about challenges the community call them about, and bringing projects and plans that must be advanced to his attention.

We would like to thank the Minister for interrupting his schedule to speak with community members who made time in their workday to gather and stand up for their beliefs. 

In response to the assembled crowd's concern that the Proposed South Coast Marine Park submission process is too complex, Minister Punch stated he was “going to talk with the Council about what might be needed to make it easier”, and “if there’s more that we can do to make the process simpler, or to get the message out, we’ll look at how we can do that.”

Inside, Councillors mirrored community concerns, reinforcing that the current "Have Your Say" process is convoluted and inaccessible. The Minister took on board that there is a need for knowledgeable, neutral DBCA staff to help the community with submissions, particularly for the elderly who don't have internet access.  

All in attendance agreed that making a submission is vital, with Councillors emphasising again that assistance is very much needed to get the stated aim of numerous well-informed submissions.

The Minister acknowledged to Council the viewpoint that the marine park plans are complex, and advised he would talk to Minister Whitby about improving access to the information.

Other important topics discussed during the meeting with Council:

  • Worker Accommodation: The Shire of Esperance has partnered with the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission on the Critical Worker Accommodation Project, designed to enable critical development and meet the need for tourism accommodation. This project fits perfectly in the Regional Development portfolio, and is now with the state government for budget consideration. Council stated it would appreciate the Minister's support.
  • The dire plight of the Esperance Senior High School was discussed, with Councillors praising the brilliant work done by the P&C and staff and declaring Council support of the school in their drive for the state government to do critical infrastructure work. 
  • Telecommunications was a hot topic, with the Council expressing the community's frustration with inconsistent service and its effects on businesses and individuals. The Minister advised that three new towers are tagged to be installed in the Esperance region. Suggestions for long-term solutions were made and the opinion was expressed that providers must consider the community dividend as much as the economic dividend.
  • Water security in the Esperance region was discussed, emphasising the importance of proactive planning and decision making for food security.
  • On the topic of shark fishing in popular swimming areas, Shire staff advised liaison with the Department of Fisheries on the best outcome for the community will continue.
  • James Street Cultural Precinct Project — Council brought this award-winning project to the Minister's attention, advising that federal funding has been applied for, and that state funding would be much appreciated in the work to see this vital project fully realised.

Minister Punch was also in town to meet with local business owners who have successfully received the Regional Economic Development (RED) Grants. The RED Grant invests in locally driven projects that stimulate economic growth and development in regional Western Australia.

Council were pleased for the chance to meet with Minister Punch and ensure he is informed of local concerns, and will continue to advocate for our unique region at every opportunity.

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