It may come as no surprise that I am not planning to attend the ‘Are they mad? Fremantle Council has lost its way’ meeting on the 23rd April. The tenor of the full-page advert is 101 rabble rousing and full of inaccuracies. Inaccuracies I fear that will be reinforced at the meeting.
Yes, I support public debate and yes I support people with differing views on projects. A youth plaza on the Esplanade Reserve was always going to be contentious, because it introduces active recreation to an area that has been predominantly used for passive recreation. However I do not support conspiracy theories and miss information.
- Fremantle Council is not killing off the inner city. This has been done by the changes in mercantile trade. Ports in Australia and around the world are suffering the same fate. Those that create a vision for new businesses and residents survive, those that refuse to change die a slow death.
- Council has not obstructed the Heritage ‘A’ listing of Esplanade Reserve. ‘A’ listing is the domain of Heritage WA, and they have not contacted Council requesting comment or support. Yes Council could request A listing of Heritage WA, but this has never been brought up until now. If the community want A listing for Esplanade Reserve and make a case for it, then I would support it going on the Council agenda. If however this has only come up because it is considered a way of blocking the Youth Plaza, my advice this is misguided, as a youth plaza would be consistent with the recreation reserve status.
- Council has not approved the Youth Plaza. Due process dictates it requires planning approval, such approval can only be given to a specific design. The point we are now at is the design phase. The commitment from Council to fund Convic to prepare designs shows support for some form of facility at Esplanade Reserve, otherwise that would have been a waste of money. However, no decision has been made on the final design. Once, and if this is done, the final concept will have to receive Planning Approval, which of course will go out for consultation.
- Some may remember that in the initial visioning for a Youth Plaza I fought for retention of the Mound. However it is misleading to say its purpose is to drain water from the reserve. The Mound was constructed as a bund to capture contaminated water in the event of an oil spill. It is situated over a main storm water outfall and has a pipe and valves to direct water into and out of it. It is so long since it has been considered a viable mitigation for oil spills I understand no one in Water Corporation even knows where the keys are to the valves.
Two other items on the agenda, though hardly mentioned in the advert are the Arthurs Head Arts Hub and Henderson Street Warder’s Cottages. As then President of the Fremantle Society I authored a submission on the Cultural Development Strategy opposing several aspects. One was the consolidation of the Heritage Festival into the Fremantle Festival, which was successful, another was opposition to the proposed Arts Hub. I believe that Arthurs Head is Fremantle’s equivalent to Battery Point, and as such more suited to becoming a Tourist Hub. Alas this section of the Cultural Development Strategy was supported by the Council of the day. As a Councillor I have to work with adopted Strategies, I take my role in supporting democracy very seriously.
Council Officers are negotiating with Department of Housing Officers in an attempt to facilitating Council ownership of the Warder’s Cottages. Like many in the community I see their neglect as a blight on Fremantle and our Heritage. However, directing anger at the Council for their state is misdirected, the responsibility rests squarely with the DOH. Council officers report back to Councillors on the progress of these negotiations and I think it would be fair to say DOH are not being the easiest department to deal with. Should an agreement be made, I am very excited about the prospects for these important buildings.
An email invite to this meeting also states the organisers are looking for candidates for the October Council elections. As I said earlier, I support democracy and encourage anyone with the skills, time, energy and support to nominate. Successful candidates will have the privilege of representing their community on a very broad range of Council services and responsibilities, which can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time.