ANDREW LUOBIKIS lives in Mardie Street, Beaconsfield. An unsuccessful candidate at October’s elections, he says the council’s decision to spend $130,000 on an electric vehicle charging station is foolish and part of a questionable sustainability agenda that is crippling Fremantle’s finances.
IT is interesting to read that Fremantle council has signed off on a tender to install an electric vehicle charging station in downtown Fremantle with a ratepayer contribution of $130,000 (Herald, January 16, 2016).
In response to my questions from the December 16, 2015 council meeting, it was confirmed by the officers involved that no cost benefit analysis nor due diligence was undertaken to justify this cost to the community, just the normal fluff.
The performance of our elected members to scrutinise is like Denis Denuto’s classic defence in the movie The Castle, “it’s the vibe”.
The electric highway is a marketing exercise by an insurance company.
It seems no consultation has been had with the manufacturers of these cars, only the University of WA.
Let us make no mistake, the $40,000 fronted by the RAC is no altruistic gesture, but a community engagement excise to allow its branding to be plastered all over towns dotted from Perth to the South-West.
Fremantle now has liquor companies advertising at events and insurance companies in our car parks. All with zero benefit to residents.
As of June 2015 there were 170 electric vehicles in WA, with just 57 using the swipe card system required for charging stations: hardly a solid business case.
And, electric vehicle sales are falling: in 2015, just 73 were sold in WA from a total pool of 100,000 vehicle sales. That represents less than one tenth of one per cent of the market. The year before, 97 electric vehicles had been sold in WA.
Nationwide, in 2015 there were just 890 electric vehicles in more than one million sales. The year before, there had been 1045.
The trend is clear both in WA and across Australia — fewer people are buying electric vehicles.
One must therefore question the sense of our council decision-makers to approve infrastructure that will have absolutely no direct benefit to its residents now or in the future.
The dozen or so locals who have purchased an electric vehicle already get a home charging station, so it’s unlikely they will be driving in to town to use this facility. Of the few drivers from across Perth who decide to visit our great town, we would be lucky to see several uses over 12 months. Is this something the council is going to measure? How much will this station cost to maintain?
Wouldn’t this money be better spent on other sustainability infrastructure that will have direct benefit to the community? How about channelling it into CCTV for better security, or cycling infrastructure so we can get our children safely around the suburbs, into town and the beach.
Reading the agenda of Mandurah council, which is also participating in the electric highway, it appears the RAC is fully funding the charging station and installation and the council merely providing the two bays. Ongoing costs are to be recovered via a user tariff, so there is no financial pain for Mandurah ratepayers.
The wool has certainly been pulled over the eyes of our illustrious leaders at Fremantle council.
If you look at what has been happening on the east coast, vehicle manufacturers have been working with state and federal governments to encourage investment in alternative fuel infrastructure.
Ryde council in NSW just gave planning approval for Hyundai to install (at the company’s expense, not ratepayers) a hydrogen fuel station. This will be shared with Toyota and Honda to help get the technology off the ground.
Why does Fremantle council constantly expect a small ratepayer base to play with the big boys on a global scale and fund these expensive projects? If the council insists on pursuing this “One Planet” strategy then why does it not seek the funding from state or federal sources and leave ratepayer funds to the essentials that are the council’s number one priority and core business. In fact, the local government act states the primary responsibility of a council is to its ratepayers to provide essential services.
Tip of the iceberg
This is only the tip of the iceberg, with much more coming from the council reserve funds and asset sell-offs to pay for our mayor’s sustainability hobby. I am sure the average resident punter would not have a clue this is where their hard-earned is being funnelled. The council financial report only gives a total sustainability funding amount, not the break down.
The political influence of the Greens party on council to push its agenda for sustainability and the One Planet strategy has overridden all common sense.
So, Mayor Pettitt, please adopt the 10-point transparency plan outlined in the Herald recently by Tony Toledo, the co-chair of the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association. It clearly outlines a breakdown of all individual sustainable projects the community has been funding. We would all like to see the green underbelly of Fremantle exposed for the damage it has caused this town.