I have been thinking about the relevance of community consultation and community groups in Fremantle. There are many in our community who feel they are being ignored and not listened to by Council, and many groups feel they are being made look irrelevant by political spin that claims they are minority, narrow-focus, not in my backyard, anti change and anti development groups representing the views of old people only.
For me the question is not who is right but how the community can better communicate with the decision makers at Council. What can we do different and better so more respectful communication can achieve better outcomes?
I question if community groups represent as many people as they want us to believe, but I also don’t believe that is of great relevance. A group representing just 50 people on a specific local issue should be taken very seriously, at the same time we should question why community groups mainly deal with inner city issues. When was the last time we saw a Town Hall meeting on issues that relate to Hilton for example? Not that I see Town Hall screaming matches as desirable or effective, as they rarely achieve positive outcomes, or make elected members change their mind.
One way forward for me is better information coming from the City, because often people who engage and are worried do so because they are ignorant about the full issues and process. That requires getting rid of spin and one- sided info and engaging the community with all the facts.
Transparency is also essential. Somehow Council needs to communicate better how they achieve the outcomes of their deliberations. What the community often sees is a council that agrees, but as Councillor Andrew Sullivan rightly pointed out in a comment to this blog, feisty debate between Councillors is being held prior to the items going to committees and full council. Why can the community not be told how that process went, even why Concillors changed their mind during the process, etc. It would probably make the community less suspicious and les cynical, and it would hopefully get rid of all the conspiracy nonsense that gets aired too frequently.
I also believe there is a need for better communication between precincts and community groups, as they often don’t work together. Only recently I was accused of not giving the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association a fair go on this blog because I feared them as competition for the Fremantle Society. I don’t see other groups as a threat to FS and I don’t believe community groups should see each other as competition, but instead they should see all the groups as an opportunity for a more united voice with more influence, that might get more respect because it is less localised and less looking after self- interest.
Fremantle is achieving good things and the city is changing and growing, and compromise is essential to do that. For example, now that some of the Esplanade has been turned into a great Youth Plaza, can we start looking at how to change other areas of the city from bitumen into green open space to make up for that loss. How can we better utilise green spaces through better landscaping, how can we attract people to use Pioneer Park and the J Shed A Class Reserve more, and even Booyeembarra Park often resembles a space devoid of people. Progress is not just about building new things and change, but also about better using what we already have, and there needs to be a public debate on how we can achieve that together.
Paranoia, cynicism and accusations of improper behaviour by Councillors, and accusations of community groups being irrelevant because of age or location, are disrespectful and unhelpful, and it needs to stop.
Fremantle is a place of very passionate people and that also applies to those who stand up to be councillors and community representatives. We all deserve more respect, so let’s get on with it and work together!
I went to the PECHA KUCHA event at the Fremantle Fibonacci Centre last night and what a ‘food for thought’ evening it was. What impressed me most was that the audience was made up mainly of young people under 35 and that the place was packed. It shows that only when groups do things differently they remain relevant. Some struggling established community, political and artistic groups should take heed off that.
The format was very simple. Invite 12 people from different parts of the community to show 20 images and speak about each one for twenty seconds. Toby Whittington from Green World Revolution, graffiti artist Lady Bananas, Paul Pule from Men Alive Australia, the founders of Higher Ground Coffee, Fibonacci’s own delightfully quirky Robby Lang, photographer Aaron Bradbrook, designer Sheree Dornan from Love in Tokyo, games designer Kate Raynes-Goldie and Freo Mayor Brad Pettitt all talked about REVITALISATION, that was the theme of the night.
It was a fascinating, inspiring, thought provoking and a very relaxing evening, and it was also nice to see that the organisors were happy to only charge $ 5.00 entry fee and the same price for beer and wine. The Blinco Street Cafe served yummy curries.
I will make sure to remain in contact with the worldwide Pecha Kucha movement and be at the next events in Freo or Perth.
Just to keep you all in the loop, here the renovation plans for the Fremantle Esplanade CARRIAGE CAFE, that is next to the new Youth Plaza. It’s not a huge change but in my opinion a positive one, so now hoping the City of Fremantle will sign off on it, so it can be done fast. We don’t want another part of the Esplanade to be a building site for too long.
I hope the City will now also prioritise the overall resurfacing and landscaping of the entire Esplanade, that was damaged by events held there in the last few months.
Fremantle PS ART SPACE in Pakenham street is showing BUSINESS AS USUAL by SEBASTIAN BEFUMO. The Western Australian up and coming artist presents three new works which respond to the gallery’s voluminous ground floor. His monumental assemblages shape space, and elevate everyday materials to a new level of appreciation.
Perth based writer Andrew Purvis describes Befumo’s work as:
‘…like a cross between a Le Corbusier fantasy and a run-down Brazilian favela. Befumo is keenly interested in the future of Western Australia’s urban planning: whether the city will continue to sprawl out along its coastline or whether it will expand upwards in densely packed high-rise buildings. The artist’s fascination with both the future and the past of his own urban environment animates this current body of work.’
Exhibition: 11 – 26 April
Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 11am – 4pm
Closing event: Fri 25 April, 6:30pm
It is interesting to see that the City of Subiaco has advertised for a place manager to become part of their senior management team. The City of Fremantle talks a lot about placemaking and organises workshops with guru David Engwicht, but to actually put a full time professional at Council is a real commitment to doing placemaking things right and different.
A place manager should almost be the think tank of a city, someone with a broad and creative mind who can see all the small and big issues, someone who is not restricted to a certain department, but who gets the overall picture, coordinates departments, strategies and events, someone who extensively networks with the business and broader community and who can support with new ideas.
Often forgetting to get the basics right is what annoys the community most, as a very irate letter in the Subiaco Post again confirmed, when a business man asks why it takes three months to repair pavement in front of his business.
It is nice to see that this blog now and then makes an ever so slight difference, as I am the eyes on the street that rangers in cars are not. After writing on Monday that the old frame around the new sign under the Round House should be painted, today a contractor was just doing that. A city that listens is a city that prospers, so well done to the officers involved for picking that up and getting it done!
This however brings me back to a suggestion I have made a few times on this blog, and that is to have a designated officer to walk, cycle, the inner city and follow a grid pattern. By doing that the officer can take notes of all things that need attention and direct it to the relevant departments. It should not need people like me to tell the COF when things are wrong, and I am probably seen as a negative whinger for pointing them out. But that, mes amis, c’est la vie, and I can live with it.
Fremantle‘s Planning Services Committee will tonight debate changes to the DESIGN ADVISORY COMMITTEE, as requested by the Special Electors Meeting.
The DAC was established in February 2010 as an expert panel of architects and urban planners to advise Council on new development proposals, but its reporting has been unsatisfactory, and renowned architect Linley Lutton resigned from the committee in December last year because of issues he had with the committee and COF staff.
One of the changes recommended is to create a pool of experts, because in the past committee members were not always available, which let to the DAC not having a quorum at all meetings.
Another, well overdue, recommendation is that the full DAC report will be attached to public reports and reports to Council and committees. Up till now we more or less received officers’ interpretations of what the DAC had said and recommended and that was far too ambiguous, as the case with the Queensgate development showed, where councillors had to guess if the DAC had given the go ahead for Council to consider discretionary additional height.
It is quite remarkable that the officer states that “It is not practical for all DAC members to sign off the report” Why not? Modern technology, such as email, dropbox, etc. can be used to share a draft report that all members can make changes to, from which a final report will then be written. If volunteer community groups can do this with their with submissions to council, surely highly paid professionals can do the same. We know that all DAC members sign off at other councils, such as Victoria Park, so why is it an issue in Fremantle?
The most important thing though is to make sure that the DAC can work absolutely independently and without undue influence from officers and elected members. How that can be guaranteed though I don’t know.
Dear Premier Colin Barnett,
The City of Fremantle needs and deserves more and better support from our State Government, because at present your are leaving our major development at Kings Square in limbo by not making an announcement about the move of the Department of Housing here, which Minister Troy Buswell promised before the state election.
Fremantle’s CBD needs urgent revitalisation to support our struggling retailers and economy. We need more people working and living in our inner city and that means we need serious development. I am sure, Premier, that you are aware of the quite massive development plans for Kings Square, but they can only progress when major tenants have signed up. That means you can give Fremantle real support by decentralising government services and relocating them to Fremantle, and help our State’s second city to grow and prosper. Fremantle needs your help, Premier, and it needs it now!
It is not acceptable to put all our State’s eggs in the one-Perth- basket, Fremantle also needs to grow and get government support.
It would also be good for Fremantle if the Fremantle Ports Victoria Quay development could be delayed by some years, so it is not in straight competition with inner city development around Kings Square.
Please come visit Freo and do a tour of all the planned development here and get a feeling of Freo’s bigger picture and great future, Premier, and don’t leave Freo in limbo any longer.
On Wednesday a very important item is on the agenda of the Fremantle Strategic Planning and Services Committee. It will be a test on how serious Council is about protecting our City’s heritage and how sincere Elected Members were during the Planning Scheme Amendment 49 debate, when they told the community higher rise development would not affect heritage areas in our inner city.
The development proposal is for a five-storey short-term accommodation building on the corner of Pakenham Street and Short Street, that is within the West End Heritage Conservation Area that has a maximum height of four storeys. If Council allows an additional storey above the maximum level for the heritage precinct, it will open the flood gates and there will be no stopping of higher and higher buildings in the historic west of Fremantle, because developers will be pushing for it and demanding it because a precedent will have been set. We can not allow that to happen and the five-storey proposal needs to be rejected by Council and pulled back to four storeys only. You gave us your word Mayor and Councillors!
Recent remarks made by some of Fremantle‘s elected members about the demographics of people attending community workshops made me wonder if there are statistics about the age groups that come to those meetings, and I have asked the City of Fremantle, Fremantle Ports and Vision 2029 to send them to me if they exists.
I believe it is a valid point that community workshops should have a broad range of interest groups and individuals of all ages, but from my observation that is not happening. I have attended most City of Fremantle workshops over the last five years and mainly see the same people at them, and the majority of them are middle-aged and older. This means the City has to find different ways of finding out what younger people want. Maybe workshops could be held at high schools and more alternative places to attract interest from the younger generations, because they don’t seem to be interested in coming to the normal community forums. Could CoF offer child care at workshops so parents of younger children can attend for example.
I must admit that even I find the workshops quite tedious, as they are very much the same, and conducted and facilitated by the same people the City employs to hold them. They are quite boring and not inspiring enough, so maybe community members could facilitate some of them, instead of professionals with little local knowledge of Fremantle. They should also be more discussion based.
But at the end it is the outcome that is important, and if community members are willing to come to the meetings, elected members need to acknowledge their input and listen to the suggestions and ideas. If those who attend feel they are being ignored they will no longer come to workshops and the whole process will change.
The disrespectful semantics of belittling community consultation, and even Special Electors Meetings, because Councillors don’t like the age group and demographics of them, is not acceptable. Planning the future of our city is not an old versus young issue, it is about respect for all ages. To ask Facebook friends for a probably like-minded opinion is also not the right way of getting community feedback.
The whole concept of community consultation should be revisited. I can see community workshops coming up. ; >)
The world did not end and the earth did not even tremble when Fremantle Council approved the controversial pub and outdoor music venue at J Shed on Bathers Beach about an hour before midnight on Wednesday.
Council signed off on the project against the wishes of the local Nyoongar people, who had sent elder Richard Wilkes to address council, and against the vast majority of inner city residents and beyond.
While the evening was a fascinating observation of how we conduct democracy at local level, it was also annoying that many public speakers and elected members spoke for far too long and could not get to the point. It obviously upset Councillor Strachan, who said during the debate that he would be more succinct than Councillor Sullivan.
Councillor Sullivan was so heated up and passionate about it all that he even called for the almighty, just to say that if the Bathers Beach markets attracted thousands of people, what a good thing a main attractor would be for the area. It was interesting to note that none of the Elected Members made the connection that the markets already is a main attractor on Saturdays in summer and offers a family friendly environment to thousands. Synergy between the market and a great small pub at J Shed would have worked very well without the need for an outdoor music venue that is contradictory to the promised family friendly art related pub. An 18+ ticketed music event is not family friendly and only Councillor Strachan seemed to have noticed that.
There were calls to “Save faith in good governance” and that we should not rely on self-regulation in a competitive environment of alcohol sales, but there was also a wide-eyed, like a rabbit in the Bradlight, supporter who had just been to Berlin and gushed about how wonderful activation of space would be for Fremantle. The old guard had to step aside and let council go on and stop opposing everything, the fan of our Mayor said.
The historic significance of Arthur Head was pointed out by many speakers, but Councillor Coggin knew better than historians and told the chamber that they should not pretend that J Shed is an amazing heritage place. It is not a unique heritage environment he claimed.
Former Freo heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera said the proposal does not comply with the A Class Reserve status, while John Dowson claimed it was a grossly insensitive proposal for a significant natural monument.
The rather irrelevant semantics of numbers came up with Councillor Naber wanting to lower the number of patrons. However his and Councillor Pemberton’s calls for a smaller building footprint made a lot of sense and might see a larger piece of the A Class Reserve preserved for the public.
Pemberton also said that the proposal was out of proportion for the site and that the dominant features were heritage, culture and the natural environment of the area. She said the resounding feedback she had from the community, and one she felt herself, was one of unease about the pub proposal.
Mayor Brad Petitt did not engage much in the debate, but stated the outdoor music venue would put Freo on the map and will attract those kind of bands we want to see. It has got the potential for quite an amazing project, he said.
I was impressed with Councillor Josh Wilson trying to explain how difficult it is to make the right decisions. He contemplated sincerely on what is appropriate, what is right, what is the right size and venue, and if there is a right answer and right decision.
The item was passed with only Councillors Pemberton, Strachan, Massie and Wainwrights voting against it, so J Shed will get a noisy music venue and pub, unless State Government does not approve it on the A Class Reserve.