Baldivis councillor calls time

Chloe FraserSound Telegraph

After seven years as a Rockingham councillor, Matthew Whitfield has resigned and will step away from official duties as of March 31.

Cr Whitfield, pictured, was re-elected as councillor for a second term at the October 2017 ordinary elections and has about nine months of his term remaining.

But the outspoken councillor has vacated his position early, first revealing his intention to relocate to New Zealand in a farewell message. Just five days later he was out of the country.

“Being one of your City councillors has given me some of my proudest moments in my life,” he said.

“I can hold my head up high knowing that I did everything that I said I was going to do. . . and, as part of a team, I know that I am leaving Rockingham in a much stronger financial position, with more facilities, better policies, and more opportunities for residents than when I arrived.”

Cr Whitfield has frequently been a contrarian voice in the chambers, campaigning for a popularly elected mayor, an end to booze at council functions and rate freezes.

While he won’t attend the February and March Council meetings, Mayor Barry Sammels said he was required to continue to perform his “statutory role” as councillor through to March 31.

Cr Matthew Whitfield has resigned from Rockingham council.
Camera IconCr Matthew Whitfield has resigned from Rockingham council.

His sudden departure leaves Baldivis ward one councillor down, with council tonight set to decide if his position will be filled prior to October’s local government election. If the City receives approval by the Electoral Commissioner, council can wait until the October election to fill his position.

City staff said given how close the election is, it made “sound financial and practical sense” to seek approval to leave the position vacant.

Staff said “while it could be seen by some that Baldivis ward will be under-represented”, councillors were tasked with representing the entire City, not just their wards.

The upcoming election will be the first time the Mayor is popularly elected and is estimated to cost about $390,000.

A separate by-election could cost as much as $70,000.

If councillors support the postponement at tonight's meeting, the number of vacancies for the October election will include three vacancies in the Rockingham/Safety Bay ward, one vacancy in the Baldivis ward, one vacancy in the Comet Bay ward as well as a publicly elected mayor.

Cr Whitfield’s resignation also creates vacancies on several council committees, including the planning and engineering services committee, the audit committee, customer services review committee, governance review committee and the roadwise advisory committee.

He also represented council as the deputy on the Metropolitan South-West Joint Development Assessment Panel.

A secret ballot is proposed to fill these positions.

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