Eyre today, gone tomorrow

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

The regional electorate of Eyre will be abolished in the next State election to make way for the new metropolitan seat of Baldivis, in a move that has angered WA farming leaders.

As foreshadowed earlier this year, the shires of Esperance and Ravensthorpe will now merge into the newly named electorate of Roe, which will take in local government areas to the west including the shires of Williams and West Arthur, and stretch as far east as the Cape Arid National Park east of Esperance.

The new electorate will cover a total of 106,000sqkm.

Sitting member for Eyre Graham Jacobs said he would throw his hat into the ring for the new seat of Roe in 2017, but until then, it would be business as usual.

"I will be the Member for Eyre until March 2017, and it's important people in the electorate continue to consider me as their local member," he said.

"The sad thing for the Goldfields-Esperance region is the loss of representation in Parliament, from two down to one.

"Irrespective of who does the job, representation for the region that contributes so greatly to the State's economy is diminished."

But Dr Jacobs said he had concerns about the WA Electoral Commission panel that originally bisected the Shire of Esperance.

"This may have been a ploy - focusing constituents away from the bigger picture, that being to disengage the shires of Yilgarn, Coolgardie and Dundas from Esperance," he said.

"I have been led to believe that the re-draw process is at arm's length to the political process, and I hope that all verbal communication were consistent with the written ones."

The shires of Yilgarn and Westonia will be merged into the electorate of Central Wheatbelt, which will increase in size to 101,240sqkm.

WA is currently divided into 59 electorates, with 17 in rural, regional and remote areas.

The boundary changes mean people living outside the metropolitan areas will have only 16 members in the Legislative Assembly after the 2017 State election.

According to the 2015 Final Boundaries by Region and District report, released late last week by the Office of the Electoral Distribution Commissioners, the three commissioners came to the view that they had "little practical alternative other than to increase the number of districts in the metropolitan region by one … to fit with a strict literal application of the so-called "one-vote one-value principle".

"The commissioners recognised that this amounted to a fundamental change to the electoral landscape," the report stated.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said while the one-vote one-value concept appeared to be a mantra . it did not necessarily provide the best form of government.

"Losing this one seat makes a huge difference," he said.

"There is so much power encapsulated in Perth now, and if you look at the entire State, Perth is just a little pinprick on the coast.

"There is very little protection for rural West Australians in the State Parliament now.

"Erosion is a slow thing and eventually it wears down the fundamental requirement of what Statewide representation is supposed to be."

Mr Seabrook said the wording on the WA's State Parliament building should more accurately read, "the Parliament of Perth".

"You've only got to look at what has happened with the royalties coming out of the regions, with only 25 per cent staying in the regions and 75 per cent going to Perth," he said.

"Five or six years ago, there was a massive reallocation of aggregated voting power to the city, and it's now almost impossible to get country issues on the political table."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said representing the vast rural and regional seats in WA was almost "unworkable" for elected members.

"With the one-vote one-value system the writing was on the wall, and this will keep happening as Perth gets bigger," he said.

"While we have this system where we divide the population by the 59 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly, the numbers will speak for themselves, unfortunately.

"To get decent representation in country areas, weighted voting was a lot fairer.

"The alternative is to make the necessarily legislative changes to increase the number of seats to allow for the growth in metropolitan regions, not at the expensive of rural representation."

Dr Jacobs said he was aware of 300 submissions that had been presented to the WA Electoral Commission, all of which opposed the abolition of the seat.

Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Dave Grills said he was disappointed with the decision to abolish Eyre.

He said it would diminish Esperance's voice as a regional centre.

"The gradual dilution of our regional voice is the direct result of the former Labor government's 'one vote, one value' legislation and both WA Labor and the Greens continue to publicly support moves to abolish country seats," he said.

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