Where’s the love?

22. 09THINK

BRAD PETTITT is mayor of Fremantle and a member of the Greens. In this THINKING ALLOWED he argues the port city is missing out on State government spending.

Fremantle often feels like the place that respective state governments forgot.

Over the past decade, very little state government funding has flowed into Fremantle. There was a huge boost of funding before the America’s Cup Defence, but that was more than 25 years ago.

The Fremantle Maritime Museum was the last major project that was state-government funded. I challenge anyone to name any major state infrastructure or development funding that has flowed since.

It is not as though the dollars aren’t there. The past decade has seen the mining boom take hold in WA and, as a consequence, the money has been flowing in and expenditure by the state government has increased accordingly—just not Freo’s way.

In recent years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown at projects to rejuvenate the Perth CBD, from the development of Perth Arena to the sinking of the rail line to the Perth Cultural Centre and the highly topical (and oddly-named) Elizabeth Quay. In Midland there is the amazing railways workshops project which the state has invested tens of millions of dollars in. Similarly, in Subiaco, East Perth and Armadale, serious state money has supported the rejuvenations of these town centres.

But Fremantle, Perth’s second city, hasn’t been treated to the same love and affections of late. Premier Barnett came to Freo in 2009 and said the council had two years to turn our economic fortunes around.

Well, Mr Premier, we have done our bit. Not only has Fremantle helped you edge towards your 2031 planning targets for slowing Perth’s unsustainable rate of urban sprawl (which now eclipses that of Tokyo and LA combined!) with ambitious and innovative amendments to our town planning scheme, but we have also embarked on the biggest public/private partnership Fremantle has ever seen with the $220m Kings Square project set to rejuvenate our CBD.

But there is only so much Fremantle can do by itself.

This is not about taking a swipe at one side of politics over the other. Both major parties have been guilty of benign neglect and shifting funding to marginal seats at the expense of Fremantle. In the past, this neglect may have even been partly understandable as Fremantle was seen as an almost impossible place to get approvals for any major redevelopment. However, in recent years the Fremantle council and community have shown this “no” and “less” attitude has now changed. It’s time for whichever state government we have after the election to assist Freo in its recovery.

Here are some essentials for state assistance over the next few years:

• Lock-in and fast-track the shifting of a major government department into new offices in the centre of Fremantle’s CBD;

• Build a new Fremantle traffic bridge with an integrated new rail line to get more trucks off our roads;

• Invest in an integrated, transit-orientated development around the Fremantle train station to reconnect the Fremantle CBD to Victoria Quay;

• Undertake a serious study of the feasibility of light rail to Fremantle’s south and east using greater density along these corridors to help pay for it; and,

• Build affordable housing for key workers and seniors in the Fremantle CBD.

As Western Australians we all have a stake in Fremantle’s future, but a big part of this future rests on some important and far-reaching decisions that will be made by our state government in the next few years. Not being a marginal seat shouldn’t get in the way of us getting the support and investment we need to realise Fremantle’s collective vision as a rejuvenated, vibrant and sustainable regional centre.

This article is not a whinge—it’s an invitation. The Fremantle council and the local community have prepared a feast and asked the state to dinner. Now we are looking forward to the state joining us at the table and kindly contributing towards the bill.

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