Opinion: Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton says it’s time for action in Spalding renewal plan

Lara Dalton MLAGeraldton Guardian
A housing complex in Spalding which is entirely boarded up.
Camera IconA housing complex in Spalding which is entirely boarded up. Credit: Elise Van Aken

The suburb of Spalding has been in the news a lot in recent weeks. Sadly, a lot of it hasn’t been positive.

During my campaign, I door-knocked extensively in Spalding. The one thing I picked up from my conversations with countless community members is how much the long-time residents love living in the suburb, and how proud they are of their homes and gardens. I absolutely love that passion.

But the reality is Spalding does have its issues. It saddens me to see it — I was raised in social housing in Rangeway and I know first-hand how life-changing it is to have a roof over your head. To better understand the issues in Spalding, we need to look back at the history of how the suburb came to be.

Lara Dalton
Camera IconLara Dalton

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The suburb was developed by the State Government many decades ago. It was meant to be a utopia for public housing. The reality is far from that. What we now know is the suburb has a very poor urban and environmental design, combined with pockets of high-concentration public housing. That’s resulted in unacceptable levels of antisocial behaviour.

Spalding does require a broad program of renewal.

It’s something I have advocated strongly for, and something that is supported by both the State and local governments. I have attended community meetings and met with stakeholders who all support finding a way forward to improve the overall amenity of Spalding.

In my opinion, the time for talk is over and we need to see action to improve the suburb and bring down the density of public housing.

But we now have an added complexity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a large number of people return to WA. That’s not surprising. Thanks to the management of COVID-19 by the McGowan Government, WA is a safe haven, with a thriving economy and jobs market. But it has placed pressure on our housing system, and in Geraldton we now have a need for more public housing.

So we have competing priorities — a need for renewal in Spalding, which would involve removing some public housing, but at the same time, we need a boost in public housing.

I can assure the community that I, along with the minister for housing, am committed to putting in place solutions that can drive real and lasting change. At my request, the minister recently visited Spalding to see what was required first-hand.

I am confident from my conversations with the minister we will see action, not just more talk.

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