High noon for council and FERN

• Local music legend Greg Hastings at FERN. Photo by Sean Hill

FREMANTLE council has issued FERN an eviction notice from its Montreal Street home ahead of the upgrade of High Street.

But the environmental group, now co-headed by Mucky Duck Bush Band founder Greg Hastings, says the council has gone back on a promise to build a purpose-built centre at an alternative site.

Back in 2013 when it was working towards a partnership agreement with Main Roads, the council did adopt a number of resolutions, which included the comment that it wanted the department to fund “construction of a building that can replicate the function and meet the purpose of the building on the existing site”.

But Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt doesn’t view that as a firm commitment and said the council was in talks with FERN to choose an appropriate existing venue.

Reneging

“There wouldn’t be solely a FERN-only facility,” Dr Pettitt said.

“They would share with other groups who are using that facility as well.”

Dr Pettitt said no funding allocation or arrangement with MRWA was locked down and that transport minister Rita Saffioti hadn’t even signed off on the High Street project to his knowledge.

“There is no project yet and there is no funding for – or anything – in terms of those kind of things.

“That may happen … it’s a bit early to say we’re reneging,” he said.

“I don’t think we ever committed to saying they would ever have a facility that was only for them.”

Mr Hastings said with a deadline to be out by the end of August, FERN’s members were becoming anxious about their future – and for 67 mature trees which will be felled for the road realignment.

Burn oil

“They’re going to knock this beautiful environmental and resource network down to build a highway and burn more oil,” he said.

“They may have ties and wear suits, but they’re environmental vandals and they’re taking the future away from my grandchildren, and their grandchildren.”

The news has riled up activists across the state who are planning to stall the works by building defences at FERN and several Main Roads-owned houses which have been used as squats for several years.

“[FERN] are not particularly activists in that sense … [but] there’s an activist group and people who are totally against this road as was with the Roe 8,” Mr Hastings said.

“They are building forts for a rather major defence of this area – and I mean major defence of this area.”

By SEAN HILL

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