Freo deserves a better deal

09. 7THINK

• Fremantle MP Simone McGurk (second from front) with Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar and other heritage supporters who are demanding the Barnett government get serious about preserving the long-vacant and increasingly derelict Henderson Street warders’ cottages. Photo by Jeremy Dixon

SIMONE McGURK says the Barnett government is contributing to Fremantle’s retail malaise by failing to properly invest in port city-related infrastructure.

NOT a week goes by when people don’t express to me their despair at Fremantle’s economic woes. To them, the empty shops and general disrepair of the CBD are the foremost symbols of Fremantle’s decline.

The emotion contained in their observations shows there are not many places in WA where residents care about their community as much as here. Their message is clear: Fremantle’s leaders haven’t done enough to realise the city’s full potential.

But there is more to Fremantle’s decline than meets the eye. Not enough attention is given to the role the state government could, and should play, in Fremantle’s rejuvenation. There are too many areas which clearly demonstrate the Barnett government’s neglect.

The reality is a stark contrast to the claim in its own strategic planning framework, Directions 31, that identified Fremantle as a metropolitan strategic centre, a tourist hub and home to Perth’s only container port.

Last year then-planning minister Simon O’Brien announced the relocation of the WA housing department from Perth to Fremantle. Yet the move has been pushed down the list of priorities.

Bringing 1000 public servants to work in Fremantle would inject some verve into the rejuvenation of the port city. Meanwhile, the construction of this significant office space has gone out to tender and its time extended but there has been no announcement on the project.

But it’s not just the new projects the state government is failing to deliver; it is also failing to protect its own heritage assets. The warders’ cottages next to the markets should be a celebration of our rich history. Instead they are a sign of this government’s neglect. Home to prison warders until the early 1990s, the then Labor state government bought them for use as public housing. This government has since decided they are too expensive to maintain, evicted the tenants and left the cottages to rot before our eyes.

The City of Fremantle is looking at the feasibility of investing in their restoration, but understandably it will not enter into this if the business case does not stack up.

I have raised the state of the cottages on numerous occasions, even joining the premier for a visit earlier this year. Yet his government is sitting on its hands, while residents and visitors watch limestone walls crumble, gutters dangle dangerously off roofs and timber beams rot until they can no longer support the building.

All that prevents the cottages from becoming a danger to residents are unsightly construction fences that have decorated the Henderson Street frontages for more than two years—a lovely vista for the thousands of tourists who visit the adjacent Fremantle Markets.

Meanwhile the state government is exposing Freo residents to danger on one of our major pieces of infrastructure. Nine years ago an engineer’s report on the Fremantle Traffic Bridge said it was at risk of collapse if hit by a passing ship or barge. Labor allocated $80 million to the bridge’s replacement but lost government before it was built. WA transport minister Troy Buswell has since reallocated that money to other projects and allowed nothing for this major piece of transport infrastructure that services the port and provides passage to Fremantle to thousands of motorists every day.

And if residents hadn’t by now felt enough of the Barnett government’s contempt for Fremantle, local services also suffer. The plan is to close the emergency department at Fremantle Hospital and the popular Kaleeya Hospital in East Fremantle, which provides maternity services. There is a strong argument for retaining an emergency facility in central Fremantle, particularly as thousands of revellers visit the nearby cappuccino strip every weekend.

The botched handling of possible school amalgamations has only increased uncertainty for schools and local parents, who months after the initial announcement “that school amalgamations are being looked at in Fremantle”, remain no clearer on what the government proposes.

One thing they can be certain of is the Barnett Government is ripping millions from local schools under its cuts to the education budget.

The onus is on the state government to make an immediate and material difference to Fremantle’s fortunes.

As an Opposition MP I will be taking the fight up to the Barnett government to make sure Fremantle gets a better deal than it currently receives.

4 responses to “Freo deserves a better deal

  1. “The onus is on the state government to make an immediate and material difference to Fremantle’s fortunes.”


    The place has such potential with its amazing historical architecture, live music venues and awesome industrial photography settings. Alas, it’s full of junkies, drunken abusive filth, seagull shit and hairy pitted hippies protesting about banning plastic bags and non-organic produce. Such potential to make this place the Newtown or bohemian centre of the west, yet it’s filled with unemployed socialists and rundown public housing.

    Privatisation is the key to revitalising the city and creating a mini CBD outside of Perth, not more government, especially with Notre Dame University as a key attraction.

    • Really Penelope- you mustn’t spend any time in Freo! I live & work in Freo & don’t share your view. My grandparents were the Cobblers in Freo- & my whole life I have seen Freo change dramatically but not this “unemployed socialists & rundown public housing ” you speak of. Sadly the life is slowly leaving Freo with the lack of monies invested by council & government. Fremantle Council itself must take some of the blame. What about the Dockers & Fremantle Hockey Club (established 1933) looking to re establish their clubs in other area’s for richer pastures & increased population.
      Wake up everybody- it will be too late to revitalise our port city without everyone investing. Hey lets get the America’s Cup back again???

  2. Simone McGurk is again forgetting that it was Fremantle’s previous MLA Jim McGinty who orchestrated the closure of Fremantle Hospital’s emergency department and heralded its move to Fiona Stanley. She keeps doing this and therefore misrepresenting herself to the electorate.

    Crying crocodile tears now over it and blaming the government is weak representation from her. Weak and gutless. She supposedly has a degree in history. Look at the lack of funding from the Labor party into Fremantle over the last 80 years.

    Stop blaming other people and claiming that you will stop its closure, which you wont and have no intention of doing.

    Start coming up with innovative solutions to solve the problems such as the Warders Cottages, without reverting them back to public housing, which is clearly your intent.

  3. Extract from
    [ASSEMBLY—Thursday, 8 August 2013]
    Ms Simone McGurk; Dr Kim Hames
    Ms S.F. McGURK
    to the Minister for Health:
    I refer to Kaleeya Hospital in East Fremantle, which provides maternity and elective surgery services.
    Is it true that the department is in discussions with a private operator for the sale of the hospital?
    If yes to (1), why has the government not informed the people of Fremantle that it intends to sell the

    Dr K.D. HAMES

    (1) – (2) Under the Labor Party–initiated Reid review, Kaleeya Hospital was scheduled to close on the opening of Fiona Stanley Hospital.
    That position has not changed and I am not aware of any negotiations being undertaken at this time. I assume that when Fiona Stanley Hospital opens that that is likely to occur, although the government has not yet made that decision and will look at what other options are available for not only maximising the best use of that hospital, but also the configuration of hospitals in that region.

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