Two conflicting reports in the media today with the West Australian reporting the City of Fremantle missed the deadline to announce a date for the January citizenship ceremony, while the Fremantle Herald reports it will be held on January 26 at the Town hall, after the Federal Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke refused Fremantle to hold it on any other day in January, not even on Sunday the 29th during the Fremantle Arts Centre courtyard music session.
Enough has been said about Australia Day but I’d like to say to the Assistant Minister that great politicians find solutions and compromises, but his stand shows that he is just a power-hungry little man with a my way or the highway attitude that is unbecoming to a minister of the crown. No wonder the Liberal government is failing to make a significant impact with mediocre politicians like Alex Hawke.
With a tree canopy cover of only 10 per cent the City of Fremantle is well behind in trying to reach the target of at least a 20 per cent canopy by 2020 as targeted for all Australian cities by Vision 202020. And to make that look even worse, experts from the renowned Arbor Centre say that 90 per cent of trees planted by councils will die and never mature and that only 10 per cent will survive.
Fremantle would need to plant a whole lot more to substantially increase Freos’ tree canopy, if the survival rate of trees can’t be improved drastically. It is pretty irrelevant to claim to have planted 10,000 trees when only a few of those will grow and mature and bring the necessary shade in our suburbs.
Experts claim that suburbs with a small tree canopy cover are six degrees hotter than those with a substantial canopy so it is very important in our hot climate to make sure we find a better way to ensure the trees our council plants will survive and mature.
Questions were raised on the Fremantle Reform blog about a “junket’ and the relevance for Freo for Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt to join a European liveable cities tour.
I am in general sceptical about sustainability experts telling everyone to get out of their cars and walk or cycle, whilst they themselves fly all over the world to catch up with other experts, who also tell people in their countries to reduce plastic bags, etc. I believe video conferences are far more environmentally friendly than jumbo jets.
Whatever a mini city like Fremantle does about sustainability will have next to no impact at global level, but I have no problem attacking the problems at grass roots, as long as we are aware about the minute impact our actions have.
My concern with Brad Pettitt wanting to go to another sustainability event is that the Freo Mayor does not have his priorities right. The environment might be his career and passion but as the Mayor of our City he should be far more concerned about the things he can change, such as the local retail economy, but did the Mayor ever apply to go on an interstate or overseas “junket” about shopping, high streets, the changes in consumers’ attitudes, etc?
I understand the desire to play in the big leagues of life, but as the Mayor of a small local council I would love to see Brad Pettitt be more nationally and internationally active to see how other councils around the world deal with the demise of so called High Streets and a steep decline in retail shopping. I would see that as worthwhile trips that could really benefit Freo, and it is an area that Council can pro-actively engage in and improve.
Leave saving the world to the big boys, Brad and concentrate on the essential small things Fremantle needs to improve in.
With the disappointing demise of local government reform and the regular criticism by residents of local councils I believe it is a good time for Fremantle community groups to start collaborating to find the best possible candidates for Fremantle Council at the next election. We need to find passionate and suitable community members willing to step up and go into local government.
It would be positive and pro-active to try to find outstanding candidates who will strengthen and improve our Council to get better governance and a better performing administration. The community is often frustrated because it believes Council no longer communicates well and only listens selectively to its residents on many issues.
It is reasonable for the community to expect more than tokenism when it comes to community consultation, and it should not constantly have to complain about inadequate services, street cleaning, rubbish collection, the maintenance of beaches, parks, gardens playgrounds, and the protection of its amenity and assets. The community wanst the preservation of, and increase in, public open green spaces.
While law and order are State and Police responsibility the City of Fremantle can help with better lighting and keeping our city tidy and well looked after. The neglected look of some parts of Fremantle is unbecoming for a tourist destination and attracts anti-social behaviour.
Residents and business owners want a consistent Council that represents them and is not dictated by certain ideologies or political orientation; a Council that well understands and supports our struggling retailers; a Council that cares for all ages and acknowledges it needs to provide for the ageing population as well as a youth culture.
We want consistency in planning approval with less compromise; a Council that insists on high-quality development and rejects mediocrity, a Council that implements and adheres to its own Local Area Policies and Masterplans.
Freo residents want a Council that delivers quality services and that is pro community more than it is pro developers. Community groups should be positive players and part of the solutions for our city. They are not a negative force whose protests prolong inevitable council-desired outcomes. We want a Council that protects our unique lifestyle and heritage and that better balances community wishes and needs with necessary economic development. Better and respectful communication will create better collaboration and best outcomes for all.
So who are the individuals needed to stand for office at the October election? Who are the outstanding community members we should ask to give new energy and expertise to Fremantle Council? I believe this is a conversation the Freo community needs to have well ahead of the next Local Government election in October. This way suitable, open-minded, non-aligned candidates might be found who will contest seats against some of the present Councillors. It is not good democracy (and not in the best interest of the Fremantle community) to have uncontested wards at elections and we need to make sure we have candidates to contest every seat for Fremantle Council. We want the very best for Fremantle and the community believes there is scope for improvement at every level.
So what about organising a public meeting on this in the near future to find people willing to step up and stand for Council at the next election? The call for community representation-instead of political representation-at Councils is very strong all over Perth and should be noted and embraced. The recent high participation in the Dadour poll on amalgamation shows that communities deeply care about their cities.
With new development and higher density under way new residents and ratepayers are coming into the Fremantle municipality. They will have issues and priorities and a public forum would give them a chance to connect with their new community, voice their opinion and suggest candidates.
Let the search for outstanding candidates begin. Put your hands up!
P.S. It is my understanding the contract for Fremantle’s CEO Graeme McKenzie is nearing its end. Will Council advertise the position and look for alternative candidates for the important position or simply extend McKenzie’s contract?
It looks like ’emperor’ Colin Barnett could well be in deep trouble with his local government reform with an unprecedented number of voters having their say in the Dadour Act election. There is the likelihood that the proposed amalgamation of some of the councils will not go ahead. Already more than the required 50% of Kwinana voters have voted and East Fremantle is nearing 49%. One can assume that most of these are NO votes and it requires only half of the votes to be against the amalgamations for them to be stopped.
I still strongly believe that the best outcome for East Fremantle and Fremantle would be an amalgamation and becoming a bigger, better and stronger council with new councillors and a new administration, so I hope that East Fremantle votes look to the future and embrace the new enlarged City of Fremantle.
Residents of Freo and East Freo should be aware that if the amalgamation does not go ahead they will continue with their present councils and only half of the Elected Members would be up for election in October. Those who are unhappy with their council and want to get rid off it should vote for amalgamation and an all new start! We will know the outcome on Saturday evening.
East Fremantle residents are voting in high numbers in the Dadour Act which will determine if the Town of East Fremantle will amalgamate with the City of Fremantle.
Some people have been spending a lot of money on full-page advertisements in community newspapers to promote a NO vote against an amalgamation, and some Fremantle Elected Members claim that untrue and non-factual statements have been made in these ads. The City of Fremantle has deliberately stayed out of the debate and not try to influence the vote, or even set straight some of the facts.
The proposed amalgamation between our two communities in not a hostile take-over bid by the City of Fremantle. I believe it is common sense to amalgamate and make us into a bigger city, and I personally have never seen East Freo as anything less than being a part of Freo.
The arguments I hear against the COF council and the administration might well be true but they are also totally irrelevant, as there will be a whole new Council for the amalgamated Fremantle. There will also be a huge shake-up in the administration because an amalgamation would mean duplication of staff, directors and CEO. So many of the present Councillors will not be on the new greater City of Fremantle council and a high number of staff will also have to find jobs elsewhere.
The fear that East Fremantle would get a less efficient administration is as unfounded as the fear is that sitting Fremantle Councillors would continue. There will no doubt be new candidates like Mark Woodcock and Matthew Hansen and many sitting East Fremantle Councillors might also want to join the new council, so new brooms will sweep through Townhall at every level
I get parochialism, but sometimes it stops progress because of fear of change. I believe that is happening at East Freo. A larger and progressive Fremantle will have more cloud, more money, and more opportunity to implement change, attract developers and move forward in cohesion and collaboration. To oppose the amalgamation is in my opinion short sighted and has a bit of a NIMBY attitude.
I urge East Fremantle voters to vote YES and embrace the amalgamation and modernisation of our communities together!
P.S. Stay tuned for a public forum-probably in March-on what candidates the community would like to have for the next Council election.
Fremantle Council will only sit six more times before a Commissioner takes over to implement the amalgamation with East Fremantle-unless the East Fremantle Dadour Act vote on February 7 does get the required 50% of votes against a council merger. This means the Fremantle community needs to start being pro-active and have a conversation about what type of new Councillors we want here, as the supersized new City of Fremantle will not only bring new boundaries but also new challenges for our Elected Members.
How satisfied have YOU been with the performance of the individual Councillors, who are the ones you want to get rid off, and who would you like to continue on Fremantle Council? Who in our community could be possible candidates and how will we convince them to nominate for Council at the next election? Who are the real community leaders who actually listen to us, instead of the tokenism community consultation has become in Fremantle? Who would we like to step up and come forward to represent us?
These are very important questions that need to be debated. We have quite a few sitting members who have been unopposed for years and there is huge dissatisfaction in the community about the consultation process and inconsistent decision-making, as well as with parts of the administration.
Fremantle needs to grow and improve but to do so we need a Council of realists who have real and achievable visions and who are not constraint by ideology and blinkered views.
The only way forward for Fremantle is to start fresh and to not let the slogan “Let’s Finish What We Started” sway us that we need to keep the present mob in power. My personal overall rating of Fremantle Council over the last four years is DISAPPOINTING, INCONSISTENT, BAD HEARING.
Here are some thoughts from East Fremantle Councillor Michael McPhail on the amalgamation:
The decision on February will present the option of merging the Town of East Fremantle (7000 residents) with a new City of Fremantle that will double in size to 66,000 residents (taking in areas that generate significant rates to the south and east).
The most significant event that is to happen to our community in the next decade will be the construction of the Perth Freight Link, a six-lane freight freeway from Kewdale to Stirling Bridge. This new freeway will lead to a doubling of port freight (and carcinogens) through our suburb in the next decade, as well as removal of Marmion Street access from Stirling Hwy.
A number of academics have proposed models of local government reform that are far more nuanced and thoughtful than the options we have on the table for February 7.
I lament that the State Government ran a process that would make a flock of ostriches proud. Indeed, this seems the standard approach by all State Governments when they discuss local government ‘reform’. The hope of getting a more enlightened set of options to choose from is as low as Colin Barnett’s approval rating.
If both very large and very small local governments have issues with remaining accountable, I would suggest there is a sweet spot in the middle. At 66,000 people, the new City of Fremantle would be the third smallest local government in Perth (post-amalgamation).
In my view, this is the Goldilocks size: not too large, not too small, but just about right.
The decision we (East Fremantle) have to make on February 7 is not whether the current structure served East Fremantle well over the last 120 years, but whether it will serve us well over the next 120 years. This is not an easy question to answer and people will have different opinions. However, I wanted to highlight that the answer to this question requires far more thought that some would have you believe.
Forming the Municipality of East Fremantle made a lot of sense 118 years ago and served our suburb reasonably well for the 20th century. However, I do think the challenges that face our suburb are becoming and will be far more advanced and substantial than our little local government was designed for. Significant change is always difficult to back. It requires stepping outside your comfort zone and relying on vision rather than history. However, when I ask the question: will our current structure be the best structure for the next 118 years? I can only but answer no.