Barnett set to axe port city

01. 26NEWSFreo, East Freo gone within 18 months

Fremantle and East Fremantle councils are to vanish as independent councils within 18 months and be amalgamated with Melville.

That’s the word from sources within the WA Liberal-National government and Labor opposition.

Melville will contribute seven of the new council’s nine councillors and the mega-council’s HQ will be in Booragoon.

Fremantle deputy mayor Josh Wilson describes the move as “apocalyptic” and fears it will destroy the port city’s “hard-won social and cultural fabric”.

The Barnett government was set to announce the change as early as yesterday, June 28.

It’s unclear whether North Fremantle is included, or if it will be sliced off to join an expected new western suburbs mega council.

Fremantle was formed in 1871 and neighbouring East Fremantle in 1897.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says the scenario—something none of the three councils wants—looks “increasingly likely” and the “voice” of Fremantle will all-but disappear in the merged entity.

“The 100,000 plus people in Melville will mean that any new council will totally swamp the voices of the 29,000 people in Fremantle and 6000-odd in East Fremantle,” he told the Herald.

“The Melville council’s priorities for regeneration are clearly around Murdoch and the Canning Bridge area. There is a real danger that the much-needed improvements to Fremantle will largely fall off the radar.

“You’ll be hard-pushed to argue that a resident of Applecross or Booragoon has Fremantle as a focus of their interests and concern and community.”

Cr Wilson says Fremantle residents have said time and again they don’t want to merge with Melville: “Just at the point when Fremantle is gathering steam for its renaissance as a distinctive and vital strategic centre we lift our eyes to see three horsemen of the apocalypse pawing at our horizon.

“The last thing we need in Freo is to have our distinct community and our strategic needs dissolved in some massive and characterless new entity, whose only logic is spurious economics and whose only certainty is the destruction of hard-won social and cultural fabric.

“But I fear the WA government is leaning towards a brutal, large-scale dissolution of local governance and local communities as we know them.”

All three councils will effectively be sacked and commissioners appointed to run them while the new structure is formed. Dr Pettitt expects commissioners to be in place “within 18 months or so”.

“Ideally it would be good to have a strong Fremantle council for a few more years to see through what we started,” he lamented, referring to the East End and Kings Square renewal projects.

“This is likely to be the last Freo council as we know it before we become Melmantle or whatever.”

East Fremantle mayor Alan Ferris, who retires June 30, says the new council will be too big. The tiny town has fought amalgamation attempts throughout its history but appears to concede it’s lost.

“There could be between 130,000 to 140,000 people in the council and the sheer size means the personal relationships with council will be lost.”

Melville had told the government it preferred nibbling up bits of neighbouring councils to achieve the required population growth per council, rather than outright amalgamation.

It had hoped to shift its council HQ from Booragoon to the emerging Murdoch activity centre but that seems unlikely to happen unless the new mega-council gets to include more southern suburbs.

The Melville-Fremantle-East Fremantle decision means it is likely Cockburn will amalgamate with Kwinana and perhaps some or all of Canning.

The Barnett government is determined to dramatically reduce the number of metropolitan councils and wants the new entities to each service around 130,000 people.


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