RACHEL PEMBERTON is a Fremantle councillor and a member of the Wetland Defenders. This week she became the second Fremantle councillor to be arrested protesting against the extension of the Roe Highway through the Beeliar wetlands (not forgetting you, Melville’s Tim Barling). In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, Cr Pemberton explains why she felt compelled to act.
THIS week I was arrested for the first time in my life.
Together with 37 others aged 16 to 69 from all walks of life; an artist, a small business owner, a hairdresser, a teacher and a grandmother among them. Far from being “professional protestors”, these are ordinary people driven to extraordinary measures by a government that has shown blatant disregard for due process, public health and safety and good planning.
Colin Barnett says we are criminals, but many people feel what he is doing is criminal.
To date, Barnett has refused to release the business case for the Perth Freight Link. This week a court said it’s in the public interest and he must release it within 21 days. He has ignored the advice of the EPA and the wishes of traditional owners and the local community.
Instead, just weeks from an election, Barnett is brutally bulldozing the precious Beeliar Wetlands – a crucial part of the last remaining 20 per cent of Perth’s wetlands.
All for the sake of a road that was devised some 60 years ago. In a time when cars were king and the value of the environment and culture were ignored.
Today we know better.
It’s widely known that building new roads and freeways to solve congestion is illogical. The more we invest in roads, particularly at the expense of public and active transport, the more people will drive on them. Thus the congestion cycle starts again.
The Perth Freight Link may temporarily reduce congestion on Leach Highway, however soon both Leach Highway and the PFL will be at capacity. The failure of Barnett to address the last mile to the Fremantle Port also means a mammoth traffic jam in North and East Fremantle. Questions also remain about how many trucks will avoid the toll by taking existing routes, and where the placarded loads (up to 25 per cent of all trucks) will go as they are banned from using tunnels.
The WA Government’s Transport Plan acknowledged that expansion of public transport is required to ease congestion. However, it fails to provide any new rail or bus rapid transit in the south-western suburbs for 30 years.
Fremantle is left stranded with no east-west rail link and the Cockburn Coast gets no rail link despite extensive residential development.
It is this absurd situation that has compelled me to take action to stop the works underway at the wetlands. I have seen hundreds of ordinary people from across the metro area, who have never protested a day in their life, do the same. We act peacefully and with respect to voice our opposition and participate in civil disobedience when we see our tax-payer dollars wasted on arrogantly destroying that which we love. The non-violent principals we practice include being accountable and transparent for our actions. I only wish Barnett would do the same.
Barnett says we are wasting police resources but he brought about this untenable situation. If he stops work, we will stop our actions. I proposed a truce as the caretaker period begins this week: let the people decide if this project should go ahead at the ballot box.
This could be a pivotal point in the development of our city.
Portland in Oregon famously cancelled the extension of the Mount Hood Freeway after massive public protests and redirected funds to build light rail. A similar scenario occurred in Vancouver Canada. Both these cities went on to become renowned as among the most sustainable and liveable cities in the world.
Sustainable, liveable cities with high quality public open space and connection to nature cities globally competitive and attractive to business, tourists and new residents.