To say I am disappointed at the spate of pieces in recent Heralds from Carmelo Amalfi attacking the FreoFarm proposal is an understatement. He and the paper seem to be running an at best ill-informed and worst manipulative crusade against this community group.
First, let me step back and remember my involvement with the South Fremantle Tip-site and subsequent path to becoming a Fremantle Councillor. Around a decade ago I was concerned at a questionnaire distributed by the Council on which the first question was “Do you want the old tip-site cleaned up?” Understandably a vast majority of people said “yes”. Unsure on how this piece of magic was to be performed I investigated further and discovered it was outlined in what became known as the “orange document”, formally the Taylor, Burrell, Barnett report. This report advocated digging out all the contents of the tip, all one million cubic metres of it, and transporting it to another tip-site, so clean fill could be put in to build a housing development on. This quickly became known as the Dig & Dump option. While cleaning up the tip-site was an endearing concept, unearthing all that putrefying toxic waste was not. The local community formed the Tip Action Group (TAG), which ran workshops with experts in the field to inform the community of the implications of the proposals. Once in possession of comprehensive expert advice the community were very clear about 2 things:
- There should be no Dig & Dump of contaminants from the site.
- The site should be capped as a matter of urgency.
The Council formally supports point 1 and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) point 2. This was an interesting and life changing period taken up reading reports, working with Government Departments and gathering large amounts of anecdotal information on the site. I mention it here to demonstrate my depth of understanding of the contamination, social, environmental and heritage issues related to this site.
One of my reasons for living in Fremantle is the strong cultural capital and community spirit; there are lots of groups and people doing things, from Men’s Sheds to Ukulele Groups, Meditation, Artists Studios to Sporting Groups, the Meeting Place to Action Groups, Theatre and Music Groups to Community Gardens. My enjoyment of this aspect of Fremantle means I also support these groups and their right to exist. Attacks on such groups like the one being waged by the Herald against FreoFarm are diametrically opposite to what I see as one of Fremantle’s strengths, it is simply Un-Freo.
So back to FreoFarm; they are a group of locals who wish to build community through developing a Community Garden using their own resources and effort. They chose a section of the old tip-site that has no fill, being on capstone and outside the fenced off area. Their membership includes expertise such as Environmental Science, Law and Landscape Architecture, so are very well aware of the challenges the site presents. They have no intention to dig into the site therefore presenting no additional risk to community than the site already does. Their aspirations for development of a windbreak to stop airborne contaminants can only benefit those living close. They see the continuing horseracing heritage as a benefit they wish to endorse.
For me FreoFarm offers the start of a healing process for this place which has the potential to catalyse other actions on the site such as starting the essential capping work, installing PV arrays, or investigating non-invasive means of remediation such as bioremediation or simple tree planting trials.
Come on Herald, try to see the glass as half full, some of us are getting tired of your use of negativity to generate a story or conflict.
Yes, I do write the EarthCare piece for the Herald, watch out for next week’s on Transit options and the Cockburn Coast and yes, as reported in the Herald my partner is on the Board of FreoFarm.