Council rejects closed meetings

FREMANTLE’S elected council has slapped down CEO Graeme Mackenzie’s attempt to take major projects discussions behind closed doors.

The council last week voted to establish a special projects committee to look at a raft of major projects, including amalgamations, the redevelopment of Kings Square, Cantonment Hill and the Stan Reilly site, and green, transport and CBD structure plans.

A report to the council, with the CEO listed as the responsible officer, says “it is anticipated that meetings of the committee would not be open to the public”.

But mayor Brad Pettitt told the Herald councillors made it clear they want the committee open to the public.

Dr Pettitt says the group will be open for all councillors to join with a less formal structure. He says that will give the opportunity for more free-flowing ideas.

Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar, a former councillor, interprets the creation of the group as a “disconnect between the councillors and the admin”.

“It’s very interesting … it sounds like the councillors are sending the message that the admin has been lax”.

Dr Pettitt says that is not the case and the group will only work properly if it is in step with staff.

“But there are key decisions that have to be made by elected members,” he stresses.

Dr Pettitt says guests will be invited to address the group on particular issues, and it will subsequently draft recommendations to the council. It has no power to make decisions itself.

Meanwhile, Dr Pettitt has been appointed to the WA heritage council, a move which raised eyebrows in local heritage circles.

Dr Pettitt acknowledges there are critics of his council’s moves to woo developers, but says he feels it’s created a good balance between preserving heritage and promoting progress.

“I think one of the good things the council did was to separate the non-heritage and heritage areas of Fremantle,” he told the Herald.

Dr Pettitt says he’s been told the West End is likely to be added to the state’s heritage register in a month, but he’ll have to declare an interest on any item to do with Fremantle.

The appointment comes as heritage is apparently enjoying a renaissance amongst young people, a fad Dr Pettitt says he’s aware of.

“There’s this thing about authenticity and place—people like places that are authentic to their history and aren’t too airbrushed or slick, and that’s one of Fremantle’s advantages, that we’ve got so much of it.”

This week the council also approved it budget with an almost 6 per cent increase in rates and charges—well above the rise of some councils in the northern suburbs.

The $97.3m budget includes $7.8m for a new depot in O’Connor, which will free up the Knutsford site for a mixed use development, $1m for mergers, $1m in bike infrastructure and $8.7m for new community facilities or building upgrades.


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