Minister criticizes Cottesloe roadside compensation for playground equipment

The controversial decision by the city of Cottesloe to make residents pay for playground equipment on the roadside has angered the state government.

Councilors voted unanimously on Tuesday night to introduce a $300 fee for playground equipment such as trampolines, cubby houses, and swings.

Larger play equipment will also charge a $100 annual fee to remain compliant.

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Local government minister John Carey said the decision was “bureaucratic madness”.

“Activated verges… makes a street better. It’s livelier and more connected,” he said.

“Is this what we want the local government to do? It’s absurd. They will have a dedicated ranger or inspector inspect all of the playground equipment.

“Are we creating a scenario of such risk aversion that we don’t allow families or children to do things on their edge?”

Mr. Carey said the City of Vincent had taken a different approach by engaging with their insurers.

However, Cottesloe’s mother, Camilla Rae, who has climbing frames at the front, said the state government should review the Local Government Act, which required municipalities to take out insurance.

Ms. Rae urged Mr. Carey to review the ordinance, saying the charges were “not ideal” but that the small town needed to cover the administrative costs of its permit system.

“If Secretary Carey appreciates active streets, then he could help by solving the problem with the ordinance,” she said.

“The state government could help all local authorities by compensating all municipalities and residents for use on the roadside.”

Ms. Rae said her climbing frames would remain if approved.

Mr. Carey told PerthNow he was “seeking advice” on the regulations, but Vincent had shown the issue could be solved without permits.

“Are you trying to create obstacles, or looking for the path of least resistance? Other municipalities have not taken such a draconian approach,” he said.

“I think a $300 permit is steep. The idea that it’s an affluent area doesn’t sit well with me. This will be a prohibitive cost for some families.”

Cr Craig Masarei, who was a member of Cottesloe’s roadside task force that developed the policy with Kidsafe, WALGA, and their insurer, said “it was with a heavy heart” that the council implemented the fees. Still, it was “a balancing act” between those who wanted the equipment and those who used public playgrounds instead.

Cr Masarei said Cottesloe was the only local authority in a western suburb to allow berms for playground equipment.

The new rules mean that a verge inspector spends 2000 hours in the first year assessing almost 190 pieces of playground equipment.

The policy includes tree houses, tree swings, and other play structures.

A council report said the city already offered free access to playgrounds to all taxpayers.

“It would be unfair for the general taxpayer to pay for individual residents’ choices, therefore … the above fee (recommended) to cover these costs,” it said.

During an earlier briefing session, Matthew Scott, CEO of Cottesloe, said an August audit discovered 190 devices, which were likely increased.

The workload of the verge inspector is expected to decrease over the years as already authorized equipment only needs an annual inspection.

John D.Mayne
I love to write. When I wasn’t writing for my school newspaper or college blog, I was writing personal essays and journal entries. Then I discovered I loved to write. In college, I wrote for my school paper and my campus radio show. I started doing freelance writing for the Huffington Post in 2009. Then, I joined the team at Newsmyth as a writer/editor. Now, I spend most of my time writing for Newsmyth and as a guest blogger on a handful of other blogs. When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, cook, and spend time with friends.