$5m rates boost

• Fremantle council’s director of city business Glen Dougall with mayor Brad Pettitt in the High Street mall, which is getting a new wind sculpture that celebrates the Fremantle Doctor through poetry. Photo by Steve Grant

AN extra $5 million in rates from developments in the pipeline will help Fremantle council replenish its reserves and retire debt from the Kings Square redevelopment within a decade.

The council’s audit and risk management committee this week signed off on the principles of a 10-year financial plan which will now be drafted by staff.

The council’s director of city business Glen Dougall and mayor Brad Pettitt were looking relaxed this week as they briefed the Chook on key aspects of the plan.

Mr Dougall acknowledged it would be a lot easier to sell the square development to ratepayers now they’d locked in the $5m rates from projects such as Heirloom, Liv, the Woolstores, Quest apartments, Hilton/Doubletree hotel (Mr Dougall confirmed apartment sales would start in June), Queensgate/Myer and the old police station.

“There are some other projects that have been talked about, but we only included known developments; we were not trying to overcook it,” Mr Dougall said.

The council has come under fire from former mayor Peter Tagliaferri and current mayoral candidate Ra Stewart for selling the Queensgate car park and losing the revenue.

But Mr Dougall says focusing on increasing the rate base is a better way to go.

“When we were in the boom, parking was going up exponentially, which was great, but when things start to quieten down that can start to hit you, while commercial rates tend to be a bit steadier,” he said.

Dr Pettitt said despite the good news, there would still tough times ahead.

“I think the key point is that WA in retail has been in recession for four years, and what Fremantle has to do is fix the structural fundamentals to help turn around.”

He says the Kings Square project underpins that philosophy.

“Can you imagine the impact of 1600 people piling out at lunchtime,” Mr Dougall adds.

The pair estimate that during construction period, retailers can expect up to 300 tradies to be working on-site, which is more than the council staff.They’ll also look at what measures they can take to ease the retailers’ pain during the construction, such as offering free short-term parking around the square.

by STEVE GRANT

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