WA small business minister Simon O’Brien has stepped in to try to resolve a stalemate between Fremantle council and artists at J-shed at Arthur Head.
Mr O’Brien says artists had written to him concerned the council was trying to squeeze them out.
Two weeks ago the Herald reported the artist wouldn’t be offered long-term commercial leases.
Many aren’t prepared to move to the short-term leases expected to be offered, saying there’s not enough investment certainty.
Mr O’Brien says the council and the artists clearly have different definition of what constitutes a business.
“This is really a dispute between the local government and the artists, but I said I would do everything as a local member to resolve the issue,” he told the Herald.
“I fought to get legislation through parliament that gave businesses five-plus-five commercial leases, but clearly Fremantle council views that type of business differently.
“If this isn’t resolved over the next couple of meetings, I told the artists I would offer them the assistance of the commissioner for small business.”
Shortly after meeting the artists, Mr O’Brien met with mayor Brad Pettitt.
“I conveyed to them the artists wanted the issue resolved because they wanted security of tenure,” Mr O’Brien said.
Despite the minister’s pleas Dr Pettitt said the artists wouldn’t get commercial leases.
“We will be meeting with the artists at the J-shed tomorrow (Friday) and sit down and see if we can work out a common ground,” he said.
“It won’t be five-plus-five leases but it will be something in between.”
Artists Greg James didn’t want to comment until meeting with the mayor and the city’s top brass.
by BRENDAN FOSTER