FREMANTLE mayor Brad Pettitt officially launches his re-election campaign this weekend, saying he’ll achieve more in the next term than in the previous two combined, if returned.
Dr Pettitt, still in the glow of new fatherhood following the birth of his daughter Aoife last week, says the McGowan government has brought a can-do attitude that has given him a renewed optimism about delivering his vision for the city.
“It feels like another way of working where you meet state government ministers and the sense is ‘let’s work together’,” Dr Pettitt told the Herald.
He says health minister Roger Cook just this week gave the council the green light to take the lead in planning for a revamp of the Fremantle Hospital, which the council wants to integrate better with Fremantle Oval and the old Stan Reilly site.
“It’s just exciting that the Labor government is interested in urban renewal, transport, South Quay and Freo Hospital,” he says.
The Kings Square project is also due to kick off within months, which Dr Pettitt is confident will be a catalyst for huge change in the city and justify the city sticking to the guns over its controversial Amendment 49.
“What is being designed for Kings Square will be one of the best retail food and beverage experiences Perth has ever seen,” he says, though confidentiality prevents him from elaborating on redevelopment partner Sirona’s plans for the Queensgate and Myer buildings.
He says Gerard O’Brien’s proposal for the Woolstores Shopping Centre is a sign of the renewed interest the Kings Square transformation is generating from developers. There was also an inquiry from one of the country’s biggest retail and urban development group, which indicated that Freo was high on its list of priorities.
Dr Pettitt acknowledged the council’s leading role in stoking the debate about Australia Day had upset many in the community, and says in retrospect a more robust consultation was needed, but he wasn’t shying away from tackling issues others have claimed should be left to state and federal governments.
“I am proud we are progressive.
“Fremantle has always been a progressive place, all the way back to Paddy Troy, and did you know Fremantle was the first council to have a library.”
Dr Pettitt said he went back through the books over his last term and counted about 2000 items that the council dealt with, and just 10 related to “peripheral” issues. “That’s less than half of one per cent of what we do.”
“Plastic was an issue that seemed radical three and a half years ago when we kicked it along, but now it’s mainstream.”
Dr Pettitt says he’s also keen to see work on the Heart of Beaconsfield project start, and while this will definitely be his last term and so he won’t see it completed, he’s keen to see it develop into a model of a sustainable suburb that includes density that works.
“The other reason I am passionate about running again is it’s not just about development, it’s about how you do that but keep the soul and passion of the city,” he says.
“This council is unique when it comes to that balance; we’re pro-development but we’re also focussed on the social outcomes.
He acknowledges that the city’s economy has been sluggish during his tenure, but says with planned expansions of shopping centres in neighbouring councils in the wings, the city has a small window to encourage shoppers back.
He convinced the influx of workers into Kings Square and the apartments starting to pop up in the East End will be just in time to beat the rush, and he’s got the experience now to help usher it through.