KATE KELLY is a White Gum Valley resident and convenor of the Save Beeliar Wetlands campaign group. She is a mother of two boys and lectures in sustainability at Murdoch University where she also studies.
THERE are many unknowns in the Barnett government’s plans to force a toll freightway into the heart of Fremantle.
The details and support data of the plan and business case for the Perth Freight Link remain hidden from the public. The exact route remains undisclosed, for example we do not know whether or how the rumoured trenches and overpasses will affect Fremantle cemetery.
All maps for the six-lane freeway end at Marmion Street and many who live in the area are justifiably worried about how the local traffic rebounding from this concrete spaghetti will flow.
For some of us in the wider Fremantle area the implications could be devastating for our health, financially and psychologically. About one week ago people living on the western side of Leach Hwy between Stock and Carrington received a letter telling them they could be affected by the Perth Freight Link and asked them to ring a number.
WA Main Roads employees told residents living in the area that their homes could be compulsorily acquired. This was the first time people living this side of Leach Hwy had been aware they could lose their homes. This is all three months before the first construction tenders are due to be filled in September. These residents have not been consulted, they do not know what is planned.
The detail about what we do know about the plan to change the form and nature of our city is equally disturbing. We know the question about the best way to move freight and solve congestion around the metropolitan area has never been asked in regards to the Perth Freight Link, which was “added on” to the flawed and politically motivated plans for Roe 8.
The route as a whole has not been openly considered nor debated. We know that how Tydeman Road and North Fremantle in general will cope is not on the public record, we know the Perth Freight Link will not remove sheep ships from Fremantle Port. We know the final environmental approvals on Roe 8 have not been completed. We know the planned Roe 8 section would destroy more than 100ha of local bushland and threaten the viability of what is left. We know that if this section goes ahead, the freightway into Freo is almost inevitable.
We also know that a decade ago a wide cross-section of the community, including trucking companies, stevedores, planners, Main Roads and environmentalists decided together that the best way to move freight and fix congestion in Perth was to build the outer harbour at Kwinana, enhance light and heavy rail capacity to Freo Port and fix the existing road network.
This is on the public record as the Freight Network Review. We know Fremantle port is coming to the end of its capacity. We know the Roe 8/Perth Freight Link will not solve congestion on Leach Hwy nor anywhere else. At best this is an expensive stop-gap which a recent Curtin University report damned as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The original plan for a greater outer (!) ring road by the Stephenson-Hepburn report gazetted for the Metropolitan region scheme in 1963 was made obsolete in the 1970s by the removal of a planned bridge over the Swan River into Nedlands, and the removal of the Freo bypass in the 1990s.
We have grown way past the boundaries of the Perth our planners could have foreseen in the 1950s, and we now value our heritage suburbs, our living historical but working port and our bushland and wetland ecology where once these were all seen as impediments in the way of what we thought it meant to “progres”. These things are now treasured assets which make Fremantle and the southern suburbs the great place it is.
These natural advantages need to be prudently protected to ensure our thriving future. The current form of the Perth Freight Link/Roe 8 Extension will decimate any recovery or ongoing health of Fremantle perhaps terminally. Living with this highway to hell will mean living with a huge increase in diesel particulates, noise and pollution which will divide and deaden the very heart of our Port city.
Fremantle will be clogged to death by trucks.
Any future consultation for Freo on the freightway, like that conducted for Roe 8, will probably ask questions about the shapes and colours of huge walls the communities of Fremantle, East Fremantle, Palmyra, O’Connor, Willagee, Hamilton Hill and Coolbellup would most like to be physically separated from each other by. This is not consultation but public relations, whose intent is to soften public dissent against an unreasonable project.
What we really need as a community is to demand that the original question: “what is the best way of moving freight and solving congestion in the metropolitan region?” is asked.
We need this question acknowledged and considered by the premier and his Liberal-National government and to do this we need to stand up to protect our port city, our community and our regional park: Bibra and North Lakes.
Now is the time to ask Premier Barnett to rethink the Perth Freight Link and save the Beeliar wetlands, by building the outer harbour and putting road to rail.