Bunbury Labor candidate Don Punch has questioned the Liberal-National Coalition government’s decision to abolish the South-West Planning Committee, taking away the ability of locals to make decisions about land use in the South West.

The South-West Planning Commission consisted of highly qualified South-West locals and has helped to shape our region over many years, said Mr Punch.

“It empowered locals to determine how land in our region was developed or preserved for the future. Now that ability has gone.

“The Liberal National Government want bureaucrats in Perth to make decisions that are fundamentally important to our region. It means we’ll wait longer for planning approvals and it likely will cost more,” said Mr Punch.

“It will also mean people will have to travel to Perth if they want to have input into local planning matters.”

“How can the Liberals and Nationals say they support local decision making in our regions on the one hand while they are removing the very forum that facilitates local involvement on the other?

“Perth already has too much control over regional decision-making and this will inevitably make it worse.”

Mr Punch said his experience as head of the South-West Development Commission for 18 years told him local ownership of decision making was a key to progress.

“You get the best outcomes when people are brought on board and local knowledge is valued. That was always my approach.”

“Locals know what’s best for their area. As someone who has lived and worked in Bunbury for a very long time, I’m very concerned our community is losing an important voice in our future direction.”

Mr Punch also questioned the timing of decision, coming in the rush before Christmas.

“I think a decision like this should be made only after a proper debate in our community, where everyone can have a say.”

“It’s very cynical to sneak something like this in just before Christmas without any prior discussion.” said Mr Punch.