Mentor recruited to help Pilbara council now calls for its dismissal
A council in Western Australia’s remote north has been thrown into crisis after a mentor who stepped in to help turn it around has instead recommended its dismissal.
Ron Yuryevich briefed councillors at the Town of Port Hedland in the Pilbara this week, and allegedly referenced a lack of trust and a lack of respect among councillors as the reason behind the move.
Mr Yuryevich — a former Kalgoorlie mayor who was also tasked with a similar role at the Shire of Whyndham East Kimberley last year — stepped in as mentor in July and has been overseeing council operations since.
He would not comment on the briefing this week, however a spokeswoman for the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries confirmed Mr Yuryevich would be recommending the council’s dismissal.
She said the department would then do its own assessment to confirm what action would be taken.
The announcement follows a tense special council meeting earlier this week over the future of a retirement village along the Port Hedland coast.
More than 100 people showed up to the meeting in support of the elderly residents living along the Stevens Streets units who have been told they need to leave as their homes have been declared a cyclone risk.
There were threats to adjourn the meeting due to disagreement and arguing amongst councillors, Mayor Blanco and attendees.
Mayor pushes for removal
Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said he had been pushing for the council’s removal for 12 months but said his calls had been ignored.
He added that he believed rather than removing the entire council, councillors who had allegedly breached local government laws should be dismissed.
Mayor of the Town of Port Hedland says the removal of the entire council would be “ideal” for the State Government. (ABC North West WA: Rebecca Parish)
“I went to the department of local government over 12 months ago and recommended our council be dismissed because of the issues we’d been having … basically the dysfunction that was created by specific councillors that had been elected,” he said.
“I asked them that council be dismissed because I didn’t think we could continue along this road and create a better future for Port Hedland.
“Ron advised council his recommendation to the minister would be to dismiss the Port Hedland council.
“But in saying that, we’ve got to remember that just recently the government had adopted new legislation to dismiss individual councillors.
“In my opinion we do have some councillors on there that shouldn’t be on out council and I would request that the State Government apply that new legislation and dismiss the councillors that clearly have created a problem … and have significant financial interests that they refuse to declare.”
Regular breaches an issue, says Mayor
Mr Blanco also said he believed removal of the entire council would be convenient for the department who he has continually approached regarding alleged breaches of local government regulations.
“The dismissal of the Port Hedland town council would clearly be ideal for the State Government considering the subjects I’m tackling behind the scenes,” he said.
“They are not investigating this. I believe the State Government has failed in their duty to regulate local government, especially the Town of Port Hedland.”
The ABC contacted several councillors, with councillors Julie Arif and Warren McDonogh stating they did not wish to comment on the issue at this stage.
The recommendation comes after the Shire of Exmouth was suspended at the beginning of 2017 following a Crime and Corruption Commission report claiming the council could not “govern effectively”.