Better and bigger!

“Local economies must have strong and growing businesses in order to achieve sustainable economic growth” This is one of the main themes a mix of committed Fremantle business and stakeholder representatives that make up the Economic Development Working Group( EDWG) have been considering over the past six months, as they work to put a practical and achievable plan before Council for an enhanced economic future for the City.

It seems like years ago that Mayor Brad Pettitt presented the City’s five year strategic visioning document at the Mussel Bar, but it was only in the first half of 2010.  Soon after that, the EDWG (an advisory committee of Council) got down to business.  Over the period since, there have been a range of development, business, retail, property and other specialists sharing their expertise with the working group.

At the same time and in a parallel universe almost, the Council also established a Strategic Sites Working Group.  Our representatives on that group are Ian Alexander and Don Whittington.  The Society’s representative on the Economic Development group is Henty Farrar.

The two groups have different focuses but their aims are broadly the same – to pathway a more vibrant city with a strong and growing economy attracting more people to work, live, use and enjoy the City.  And for your representatives, it’s always in the context of a City with character and special places.  But we do have to have change.  Declining retail numbers, fall of in business confidence, competition from other regional centres!

The City’s five year strategic vision puts a strong focus on building a future through leadership and cooperation.  It’s a clear vision.  The City puts it this way:

The City has a specific focus that relies on the redevelopment of a significant portion of the east precinct of the Fremantle Commercial Business District (CBD). A target is ‘five major commercial projects underway or completed in central Fremantle.

The related projects are:

§       attracting at least one new government agency to be located in Fremantle

§       maintaining existing government agencies in Fremantle and identify opportunities for expansio

§       looking for opportunities to attract large private enterprise and/or develop clusters of service industry businesses

§       facilitating provision of at least one new accommodation hotel in city centre

§       developing a west end activation strategy with key stakeholders including University of Notre Dame

§       implementing a strategy for City-owned sites with staged completion dates for the Spicer site, Point Street site and Queensgate cinema redevelopment

§       establishing a City Centre Sites Working Group to work with private landowners with a view to having these sites re/developed – including (but not limited to) Westgate, Myer, Coke & Gas, Woolstores.

The EDWG is due to present its report to Council before the middle of the year. Cr Josh Wilson chairs the EDWG and Cr Andrew Sullivan chairs the Strategic Sites working group.

The Fremantle Society will be doing its bit to bring understanding and insight to particular issues always, but there will be a fair bit of “no pain no gain” to consider in the months and years ahead.

Henty Farrar

Vice President

Fremantle Society

Festivals set to be merged

(The following article by Jenny D’Anger comes from this week’s Herald, and is posted here with permission.)

Fremantle city council looks set to merge the annual week-long Fremantle Heritage Festival into the Fremantle Festival.

Critics fear it will dilute the heritage festival and ultimately lead to it being killed off, but one councillor has claimed it is “untenable” in its current form.

The council’s cultural development working group — an advisory committee consisting of councillors, staff and residents — last week proposed killing of the week-long mid-year festival as a stand-alone event and “collapsing” it into the razzamattaz Fremantle Festival, held in November.

Cr Tim Grey-Smith chairs the group and he told the Herald he’s “excited about moving the heritage festival” saying “it will do wonders for the event”.

Claiming the festival in its current form is “untenable” he says “combining” it with the Fremantle Festival will secure its future and “bring more people from outside the city in to appreciate the city’s heritage buildings”.

Mayor Brad Pettitt backs the change “[only] if the result was an improved heritage fesetival”.

“[The festival] is highly valued and I would not support it being watered down or lost,” he said, confident the change would give the port city “greater bang for its buck and a better heritage festival without greater cost”.

But the she’ll be right scenario doesn’t wash with opponents who say the move will lead to the festival’s dilution and eventually its demise: “The proposed merger is a piece of cultural vandalism,” working group member and Fremantle Historical Society vice-president Bob Reece told the Herald.

East ward Cr John Dowson hates the idea too, saying it’s the latest in a string of decisions that’ve seen heritage slip from the council’s radar: “It will be over my dead body that council gets rid of the long-running Heritage Festival,” he said. “[It] should be left where it is as a major annual event.”

Beaconsfield Cr Josh Wilson says the plan will “make Fremantle a festival city of the highest quality possible”.

Heritage axe

“Making Heritage events a significant part of the Freo Festival potentially means a wider audience and administrative cost saving that can be spent on exhibitions and performances.”

Deputy mayor Doug Thompson also reckons there are “definite synergies” in a single festival and notes “the Fremantle Festival itself is now part of our heritage”. North ward colleague Cr Robert Fittock says there are “cost benefits”: “There could be a bigger budget, a bigger audience, a bigger event.”


South ward Cr Andrew Sullivan was also receptive, saying a “small, cash-strapped” council like Fremantle had to weight up costs and he’d rather see money going towards actual heritage projects. “But there will always be a need to allocation a small amount of money for the education, promotion and recognition associated with a heritage festival.”

Cr Georgie Adeane wasn’t keen, saying “to combine the two festivals would definitely diminish and dilute the importance of heritage in Freo”.

Hilton ward Cr Sam Wainwright was waiting for more information before taking a stand. Fremantle Society president Jon Strachan “strongly opposes” the move, saying heritage will lose out.

Freo Society a huge success

Councilor Josh Wilson send the comments below in response to my article Working for the Future, which I posted on this blog last week.

Roel Loopers

I think the revitalisation and renewal of the Freo Society is critical because few groups have done more to make Fremantle the special place it is today … and because all groups/organisations need to periodically renew and refresh both their sense of purpose, and their membership. The Fremantle Society has been a huge success in protecting our built heritage … and the FS itself is part of our social/cultural heritage – so join up and get involved!

I hope a revitalised Fremantle Society will continue to exercise its protective function, while also refreshing what should be its fundamentally progressive purpose (remember that in the ’70s protecting heritage was radical!). Economically, demographically, and even culturally, Fremantle has stagnated over the last 10 years … and if we want Freo to be a vibrant urban regional centre (which some may not), then we need a new dynamic phase in this beautiful old town.

Like every second person in Freo, I can happily propose a bunch of groovy changes (a new multipurpose theatre over here, a light rail line there, a mixed social housing and arts cooperative village in the middle) … but let’s all remember that these things are either funded by government (State and Federal), or by the private sector – and since Freo has a stagnant population and a retreating commercial/retail economy, and as we have a reputation for insisting on the perfect rather than occasionally accepting the good … we struggle to make a good case for either government or the private sector to pour money into this City. I spend a fair bit of time talking to government and hearing from the private sector (in both my professional and Council roles) … and people from outside Fremantle are always looking at a range of opportunities, rather than through the Freo-first/Freo-loving perpective which we all naturally have.

As a Councillor, I also want to point to 2 bits of planning ‘administrivia’ … the first is the WA governments new Development Assessment Panels, which will remove larger planning matters from the remit of the Fremantle Council (some may think this is good; others will violently disagree); and the second is the new process, soon out for public comment, which will require planning applicants to go through a pre-consultation process with their neighbours. I hope this will promote a greater degree of communication and cooperation between people when it comes to striking a balance between people’s personal design ambitions and the amenity impacts these might have.

We will see.

Josh Wilson
Cr. City of Fremantle, Beaconsfield Ward