Insensitivity and Insanity at Fremantle Council

If it wasn’t for the excellent work of the volunteer guides at Arthur Head who get no help from Fremantle Council, and the presence of a few outstanding artists such as Greg James and Glen Cowans, Arthur Head would resemble a demolition site, such is the neglect of the area by Fremantle Council. The Fremantle Society today sent the following letter to the mayor and councillors:

To the mayor and councillors

It beggars belief, after 10 years of appalling neglect and abuse of Arthur Head by your council, that you are considering an insensitively located large Aboriginal cultural centre proposal there without any input from history or heritage experts, and that you will be allocating $50,000 in addition to tens of thousands of dollars already spent to pursue this idea.

Yes, the idea of a well developed plan for an Aboriginal Cultural Centre is strongly supported by the Fremantle Society. So is the idea of a well developed Fremantle History Museum, a well developed Immigration Museum, and a well developed Archaeological Centre.

To that end, the former CEO of Fremantle Council 10 years ago developed a museum policy for Fremantle Council following discussions with current Fremantle Society president John Dowson, the rationale being that Fremantle had recently lost four key museums and needed to get some back. That council policy appears to have been ignored, despite over $250,000 spent on developing an archaeological proposal for Pioneer Park, years of work done on getting an immigration museum, and the obvious need for a Fremantle History Museum. However, the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre Visioning Report indicates that considerable money has been spent preparing the current report, though it certainly has not ‘involved the community from the outset’ as it states.

The visioning report you voted on in April, with its ‘preliminarys’, ‘landscape treatement’, ‘adapatable seating’, and ‘site preperation’ selects Arthur Head as a preferred site.

Arthur Head is not a development site, but a heritage site. And it is one of obvious State and national importance.

The abuse and neglect of Arthur Head by your council over the past 10 years has been scandalous. The Visioning Study report’s support for a $40 million large new intrusive building at Arthur Head for an Aboriginal Centre requires the removal of J shed, which now has its own heritage as a centre of arts excellence.

It will also be of concern to many that your report recommends: “There is opportunity for the new facility to begin a reclaiming process by the Aboriginal community of Walyalup/Fremantle, particularly the Manjaree/Arthur Head precinct. “ (p46).

The Fremantle Society is keen to support and help with any proposals which improve Fremantle’s telling of its Aboriginal, archaeological, immigration, and settler history, but the way your council is operating ignores the expertise of the community, the vesting rules for Arthur Head, and other urgent priorities such as saving Arthur Head from further collapse and ruin.

As former Fremantle Society committee member Colin Nichol wrote a year ago, the neglect of Arthur Head is a metaphor for the city’s shortcomings. He quoted the shadow local government minister Tony Kristicevic stating that Fremantle Council should be forced under the new Heritage Act to do its job of maintaining Arthur Head. He stated: “As the custodian of a heritage place, the city has a responsibility to protect, promote, and preserve this historic landmark.”

Mayor Pettitt asked the Fremantle Society to work with the Fremantle Council to get money for Arthur Head. That won’t happen, because if the expensive asset management plans that were put together 10 years ago to prevent the current disgraceful neglect had been followed, there would not be so much damage, and less need for the council to belatedly seek external funds. Also, some of the council remediation proposals for Arthur Head are clumsy and detrimental. The Fremantle Society instead will lobby, and support Arthur Head, using its various experts.

The good work of the previous council at Arthur Head prior to 2010 has been seriously undermined. As Fremantle Society committee member Agnieshka Kiera stated: “The most successful council project according to the Catalyse Survey has been the transformative Arthur Head Project (Old Port Project, boardwalk, Kidogo Gallery, Bather’s Beach etc)” – all done prior to the current council, and all done sensitively.

The $500 million Aboriginal centre proposed for Elizabeth Quay and the $40 million one proposed for Fremantle are worthy aspirational ideas, but they should not be pursued without sensitivity to other histories. By not even-handedly looking at the needs of a range of Fremantle stories that need to be told, and by not consulting properly, you are dividing the community instead of uniting it, in your obvious ideological pursuits.

The former CEO of the National Trust (WA) and CEO of all Australian National Trusts, Tom Perrigo, concurs with Fremantle Society concerns about the location and scale of the proposed Aboriginal Centre at Arthur Head. The Fremantle Society wants Aboriginal heritage and culture to be properly promoted and appreciated, but not the way you are going about it.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
8 May, 2019

This is Heritage

The Fremantle Society encourages members to support the Heritage Festival currently underway, and to provide feedback to the Society. Fremantle’s own standalone heritage festival has disappeared, now amalgamated into the National Trust one. It remains to be seen whether the end result will be as effective. There is a good range of activities in the current program which runs until May 18th, but in recent years neither the Fremantle Council nor the National Trust has invited the Fremantle Society to participate in heritage events or issues.

The current festival was launched on 18 April, with unfortunately few people in attendance, at the revamped drill hall in Parry Street where the Fly by Night Club used to operate. The Fremantle Society president was there, along with Fremantle Society Secretary Chris Williams, Fremantle Society Treasurer Adele Carles, and former Fremantle Society Vice President Robert Bodkin. The National Trust Chairman Max Kay, who got lost finding the venue, addressed the small crowd in the wonderfully refurbished venue. His getting lost mirrored the unfortunate reality of the invisibility of the National Trust in Fremantle, despite it having many hundreds of listed properties there.

The National Trust has lost its way under its current leadership, and refuses to engage in advocacy for heritage as National Trust branches in other states do, leaving Fremantle vulnerable to the sort of damage we have seen in recent years.

The man responsible for getting the revamped Drill Hall underway, Tom Perrigo, the previous dynamic CEO of the National Trust, was not even invited to the opening. He is not impressed.

The $1 million that was required by the National Trust to be spent on the Drill Hall by Sunset Events will give the hall a new life as a high quality entertainment space, but it will put Victoria Hall, which Fremantle Council disappointingly has for put out for sale, under more pressure to survive as a performing arts space.

Heritage Council nominations close 2 May

The Heritage Council recently advertised for new members.

The organisation, viewed in the heritage community as often little more than a developer’s club, has apparently mandated that half of future members of the Heritage Council should be female.

While equality of opportunity is fundamental, equality of outcome as proposed is odious and insulting to women.

Victoria Quay High Rise Plans:

Phil Griffiths last year criticised the Fremantle Society for criticising the Heritage Council. Ironic, given that after strenuous opposition from Fremantle Council to Fremantle Port’s ING plans for large boxes on Victoria Quay some years ago, with various heritage reports from Fremantle Council and others like the Fremantle Society opposing the scale of the plans, Phil Griffiths wrote a report for the Heritage Council approving the ING plans.

Unfortunately, those plans are back in an even larger form, with Fremantle Ports setting up a new taskforce to push for large boxes on Victoria Quay up to at least 10 storeys in height, and driven by the same people like Alannah MacTiernan, who were behind the ING plans.

The Fremantle Society will be writing about that in more detail very soon.

Originally posted by the President 5 May 2019.

Fremantle Society Concerns on Rubbish Fraud

Rubbish Fraud

Given the Felice Varini Yellow Lines debacle in High Street, French artists may not be very popular here at the moment, but French artist Bibi has a compelling exhibition about plastic rubbish currently running in Sete, and this is one of his images.

Bibi’s image reminds us of the obscene amounts of damaging plastic garbage littering the oceans and landscapes of the world.

That obscenity is made worse by the fraud perpetrated by governments, and also councils.

To implement a three plastic bin system, instead of two, Fremantle Council has increased rates by 2% to cover the cost, a full year before the system is due to start. Other councils like Cockburn and East Fremantle implementing the three plastic bins have NOT charged their residents extra.

A ratepayer paying $5,000 rates will thus pay $100 a year, for ever, for the extra plastic bin. Ratepayers who understand or care about this fraud should demand that rates be reduced by 2% this year, as the bin cost will have been covered.

But the major fraud is that after so much effort to separate rubbish, much of it is going to landfill.

SMRC, the organisation that deals with Fremantle’s rubbish, along with that from East Fremantle and Melville, is struggling to cope with the garbage crisis. Their claimed recycling rate of 65% is better than government targets, but when they send our rubbish overseas to Malaysia or Vietnam, how much goes to landfill? What is the true recycling figure? Why should we be selling our rubbish to other countries?

SMRC is struggling so much, they have now decided to put their operations out to tender.

Even during former Mayor Tagliaferri’s term, SMRC was seen as a bottomless financial pit, and various councils ran for the door, content to lose millions of dollars to get out of SMRC. But Fremantle is still there, with one of its councillors, Doug Thompson, as the well paid Chairman.

Because Australia has run its manufacturing base down dramatically, plastic and glass are, extraordinarily, no longer made in this country. There is so little demand for recycled glass that trainloads of it are heading for Rockingham and landfill each month instead of being recycled. 50 years ago a glass Coke bottle would be washed and reused up to 100 times. Now, if you want glass, you pay more for it, and it goes to landfill.

While Fremantle Council paints itself as a national leader in environmental issues, much of it is window dressing. There is a crisis, and one that exists now.

The Fremantle Society is concerned not just with heritage issues but environmental ones as well.

Bibi points out that in 1950, two million tons of plastic were produced each year. Now that figure is 350 million tons, and most of it cannot be recycled. His picture shows the new genus of fish he has created, piscis lagoena (plastic bottle fish).

It will cost ratepayers over $220,000 to clean the plastic coated yellow lines off Fremantle’s heritage buildings. When will council treat plastic and other waste as the crisis that it is? It is not a photo opportunity, but a disaster. It is one that needs leadership now.

Fremantle Society members are the conveyor belt for much of the rubbish stream, and need to be part of the solution.

Originally posted by the President 15 May 2019.

Why You Need the Fremantle Society

In three years time The Fremantle Society will be 50 years old.

Many people have made amazing contributions to the Society, and many have helped just by being members. The Society has achieved a great deal, and its presence is important for, if nothing else, keeping decision makers on their toes.

The work done by the Society, and its value, in its first 38 years is well examined by Ron and Dianne Davidson in their book Fighting for Fremantle.

Ron said today that ‘for a community group it is a notable achievement, an elaborate book launched by a popular premier (Colin Barnett), with an introduction written by the esteemed Geoffrey Bolton.’

The Fremantle Society needs to plan for its 50th birthday in 2022,  and would like to hear from members about ideas for a 50th anniversary project. Ron Davidson has already jumped in with a suggestion:  ‘Get the South Fremantle Power Station refurbished and used for the community.’

Meanwhile, 2019 represents ten years since Fremantle Council embarked on a ‘revitalisation’ program, spending millions on consultants, and selling $40 million of ratepayer assets at bargain prices to the developers they are working with.

Now, ten years later, despite a host of new incongruous boxes appearing in Fremantle, many of the old problems remain.

This is an election year for 6 local councillors. With a lazy media, and political parties involved in local politics, there are important reasons for the Fremantle Society to continue its advocacy for good quality decisions and development, using its own expertise and that of hired consultants.

If you have not paid your annual subscription yet, we ask that you do so now.

The Fremantle Society
c/- 72 High Street
WA 6160

East Fremantle needs your help — today!

The Royal George Hotel and Roofing 2000 Site

The Fremantle Society works with similar groups outside Fremantle when it can, and we have campaigned with Friends of Royal George for months on the issue of the rezoning the Royal George site, and the shocking deal with Saracen that gives them the magnificent hotel for just $576,000 plus GST in return for not doing any of the restoration so far that was supposed to be completed within 36 months, but giving them a massive bonus of up to 7 storeys of apartments on the site.

Then there is the Roofing 2000 site on the corner of Stirling and Canning Highways where the owner is seeking 80 to 100 apartments on a relatively small plot of land.

Submissions are due TODAY by 11.50pm, and its really easy to go to the East Fremantle Council website and make a brief, or lengthy, submission.

The top photo of a possible outcome on the Roofing 2000 site is borrowed from the Friends of Royal George facebook page and shows the obscenity of the current push by government and developers to allow high rise totally out of keeping with local character.

The second photo is from the Town of East Fremantle website and shows the negative impact of 6 storeys on the hotel, not 7 as approved by Lisa Saffioti.

Few people have read the full conservation plan for the Royal George Hotel, but the Fremantle Society has. It outlines the huge social and historical importance of the Royal George Hotel, including the rarity of the rear under building stabling, probably unique in Western Australia and described by one architect as like being in a small cathedral.

That value alone should be enough to ensure no large apartment block is allowed right up next to the hotel.

The Fremantle Society attended a town hall meeting on these two issues last week and asked why the heritage precinct listing for the Royal George Hotel and George Street disappeared some years ago, when the hotel is obviously an important landmark heritage building and George Street is good enough and important enough to have a heritage listing.  Council is looking into it.

Below is what Genevieve Hawks has written on the Friends of Royal George facebook site:

Royal George Hotel (No. 15) and Roofing 2000 (No. 14) submissions:
In brief, East Fremantle Council’s two amendments (Scheme Amendment No. 15 [Royal George Hotel], passed by the Council in June 2018; and Scheme Amendment No. 14 [Roofing 2000], passed by the Council in April 2018) both gave upper height limits to any future developments on those sites. The State Minister for Planning is seeking to modify those amendments in several ways, and we are being asked whether we support those modifications (hence our submissions). ON BOTH SITES, HEIGHT LIMITS HAVE BEEN REMOVED BY THE MINISTER’S MODIFICATIONS. In the case of the Royal George Hotel, the Minister’s modifications cap development at seven storeys, but the height of each storey is OPEN, so potentially the development could be higher than the hotel spire. (This would not be possible under the Council’s original amendment.) In the case of the Sewell Street site (Roofing 2000), the Minister’s modifications potentially allow a 16+ storey building (this would be the tallest building in Fremantle).

The NUMBER OF FLATS that can be built in each development doesn’t really vary that much between the Council’s original amendments and the Minister’s modified amendments: so the choice is basically between shorter and bulkier, or taller and narrower buildings.

If your main concern is HEIGHT, you can state in your submissions that you support the Council’s original amendments (Scheme Amendment No. 15 [Royal George Hotel], passed by the Council in June 2018; and Scheme Amendment No. 14 [Roofing 2000], passed by the Council in April 2018).

If you have ongoing concerns about the impact on the neighbourhood (heritage, amenity, traffic, parking, overlooking, overshadowing, development precedent, local school catchment, etc.) list all of those concerns as well. You may oppose ANY large-scale development on either of those sites (for reasons that you outline) and there is still some value in stating that in your submission. (See GR’s submission on Scheme Amendment No. 14 below [posted by me on 17 February] – it’s a good example of what you might say.)

Sorry for the short notice, but you can do it!

John Dowson

$50 million to get your vote?

Oh No, another Election Year!

Another election year has arrived for local governments and six councillor vacancies will be available in Fremantle.

City Ward (incumbent Cr Pemberton)

South Ward (Cr Strachan)

East Ward (Cr Waltham)

Beaconsfield (Cr Hume)

Hilton (Cr McDonald)

North Fremantle (Cr Jones)

Are you getting value from your councillor? Besides getting $500 a week for attending meetings etc, councillors pay themselves to run those meetings, from a little pot of honey worth $60,000 a year.

On important issues like King’s Square, too many councillors seem either ignorant or disinterested in the details of the spending of $50 million of ratepayer money on a new administration building.

Some seem more interested in ideology. A few weeks ago Cr Strachan (up for re-election) seconded a lunatic-fringe motion to council from Cr Pemberton (up for re-election) to prevent any troops in any parade in Fremantle from carrying weapons (the whole point is the weapons show trust by the City when allowing marches).

On the important subject of the $50 million administration building, Cr Strachan told a ratepayer today: “I do not have a comprehensive set of figures you seem to be asking for available to me at the moment”.

How can a councillor not know the finances of the biggest expenditure of money in Fremantle’s history?

As a result of our last post to you, a resident had written to all councillors with questions about the finances of the King’s Square administration building. At least Cr Strachan was one councillor who replied, as he is very good at doing.

Cr Strachan wrote to the resident: “It is totally inappropriate to make commitments and sign contracts then abandon them because John Dowson thinks it would be nice to have a large open space.”

Cr Strachan’s insulting and false statement ignores the fact that the final contract to build the building has not yet been signed, and it is not just John Dowson who has concerns about the finances and building out the Town Square. Two former WA premiers, two former Fremantle MPs, and all the experts spoken to by the Fremantle Society DO NOT support building the administration building in the town square.

In the same letter Cr Strachan falsely states that:  “the Civic Centre is intended to be the key attractor to Kings Square”. No, the revamped Myer and Queensgate were intended to be the key attractors.

Yes, it is very important to have civic facilities that attract people. The proposed library in the “Civic Centre” will not even be called a library. It will be called a “Community Hub.” Goodbye books, welcome more computers. Goodbye the biggest and best Local History Library in the State – half the staff from which have already been sacked.

The Fremantle Society asked another councillor for the current financial figures, but they didn’t know. The Fremantle Society then asked yet another councillor for the projected rate at paying the building off, and the councillor got the figures all wrong.

So, the Fremantle Society has provided the answers the resident sought from the councillors.