GOOD, BAD AND UGLY FREMANTLE 2016
2016 has been a big year for Fremantle, so I want to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly.
A few things stand out for me and the first one is the national exposure of the Australia Day changes the City of Fremantle made. I believe it is positive that there is now a national debate if January 26 is the appropriate date to celebrate Australia.
The most positive change in Fremantle is seeing so many substantial building sites in the CBD after our city had been in the development desert for decades. The news that state government departments will be moving into Kings Square is huge for Fremantle and so are the Liv, Heirloom, Hilton Doubletree, Quest, Spotlight and other major developments. However, the most disappointing aspect of all the Fremantle development is the mediocrity of most buildings. It’s a shame that planning laws are not stronger and more specific in that regard.
A great win for the community was the rejection by the WA Planning Commission and the State Administrative Tribunal of the proposed tavern at J Shed, but Sunset Events still has a 25-year-lease so we’ll need to wait till July to see if they will take that up and what they will be proposing this time.
Not so positive is the attempt to make historic Arthur Head into the Bathers Beach Arts Precinct. The eviction of residents at Captain’s Lane has resulted in the verandas and backyards of the cottages being used by homeless people at night and most of he new artists studios have done little to activate the area, and neither has the Walyalup Aboriginal Centre which has been a costly failure.
Absolutely fantastic to see the historic Warders and Gunners cottages restored and people living in them again. It has been a long battle by Fremantle City and the community to stop the neglect and we finally got outstanding results.
Also great that historically significant Cantonment Hill will be developed into an attraction for locals and visitors and the old Signal Station being used again by Fremantle Sea Rescue.
Disappointing is the corporate greed of the Fremantle Dockers football club who are demanding a large million-dollar payout from the City of Fremantle to relinquish their long-term lease on Fremantle Oval.
Community negativity has been a disappointing feature of the year and social media is frequently showing the nasty face of keyboard heroes, who often are uninformed and make comments and judgements based on ignorance. I like a good debate and engaging with people who have different opinions, but the nastiness and name-calling is distasteful, unnecessary and inappropriate.
Good community consultation and information is still lacking and makes the interaction between Council and the community often negative. There is too much inconsistency and tokenism. Community engagement happens too late in the process where it inevitably becomes reactive and negative. That needs to improve!
There is no doubt that there is a lot of room for improvement, especially at the basic levels of city maintenance and cleaning, and WA Police need to do a whole lot better addressing the anti-social and crime issues in Fremantle.
The City of Fremantle also needs to start getting serious about the ageing population in Australia and our city and needs to find a better balance between youth interest and that of older people in town.
City expenditure is at a dangerous level and that has to become the number one priority in 2017 for Fremantle Council. There needs to be a more realistic financial approach to what the city can afford because it is following dangerously into the footsteps of the State Government of over-spending.
Fremantle needs to have a debate on what good development for our city is and how we can stop the glut of ugliness we are getting in the the city. The fact that Fremantle Council gets overruled by Joint Development Assessment Panels and State Administrative Tribunal is a worry as we need to retain the unique character of Freo because that is why tourists come here.
Tourism needs to be more appreciated and looked after with more than 60 cruiseliners visiting Freo this summer. The visitors’ numbers at the Roundhouse are significantly up this year, so we need to have more attractions to keep the tourists in town longer. I would like to see a real physical interpretation of the former Whaling Station at Bathers Beach and also a migrant museum.
A mere $ 10,000 for power into the Roundhouse so that a $ 200,000 new display project can be undertaken should be supported by Fremantle City. It’s the sum of money the City has given for a solar parklet in Wray Avenue that will not attract even 1% of the 135,000 visitors the Roundhouse gets.
The selection of candidates for the federal election was a bit of a farce with Liberal candidate Sherry Sufi pulling out, to be replaced by equally unknown Pierrette Kelly, while Labor engaged in the unnecessary and unfair humiliation of Chris Brown who was replaced by former Freo Deputy Mayor, and my preferred candidate, Josh Wilson. Josh is our new MP in Canberra.
A possible swap at McGabe Street in North Fremantle where parts would go to Mosman Park is interesting in the context of the failed local government reform. It looks to me like piecemeal governance.
The sale of Fremantle Port and the building of the Perth Freight Link will not eventuate should the Labor party form government after the March 2017 election, so it is disappointing that the Barnett government is fast tracking the Roe 8 Highway extension and the destruction of the wetlands instead of waiting for the election outcome.
Heritage protection remains critical and needs to remain a priority for Fremantle Council. It is not necessary to compromise heritage to appease developers. There are many other locations outside the West End that are better suited for higher density and building height. Community vigilance is essential to keep inappropriate development out of the inner city.
I love living in Fremantle and I love engaging with the community. It disappoints me that there is so much negativity in this great city and that so few people participate in the democratic local government process, and I hope that will change in 2017.
We all can make a positive difference to our city and be part of the solution when we respectfully engage with the Elected Members and CoF staff, and they with the community. That is my wish for the New Year. Have a very happy one!