NORTH FREMANTLE residents are the forgotten victims in the debate over the future of Fremantle’s port, sustainability professor Peter Newman told a public meeting this week.
Organised by the North Fremantle Community Association, more than 100 people packed the local community hall on Tuesday for a Q&A about the Westport Taskforce’s shortlist of port options with Prof Newman, Westport chair Nicole Lockwood, Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt and Fremantle Ports CEO Chris Leatt-Hayter.
Prof Newman wants an outer harbour “ASAP” to facilitate a lithium industry in WA, and says the bickering over truck and train routes by Fremantle port supporters is a moot point to North Fremantle residents anyway – it all ends on their doorstep.
“The people of North Fremantle have been the ones who receive all the end product of diesel trains and diesel trucks whether you come down Leach Highway or Roe 8,9 and 10,” Prof Newman said.
“They are the ones sweeping up diesel black soot on a daily basis or coughing it up.
“The new data on lithium concentrate containers coming to the port from Bunbury and Kwinana shows that we should be preparing immediately for a new container port in Kwinana.”
Ms Lockwood started by shedding more light on one of the five port options Westport has put forward, dubbed the “blue highway”, which entails barges between Fremantle and Kwinana ports. It was criticised by shadow transport minister Libby Mettam as a “thought bubble” that hadn’t been run past stakeholders.
“All container traffic would come into Fremantle, then when we can’t get it onto road or rail, we barge it down to Kwinana,” Ms Lockwood said.
The taskforce chair said the system was commonly used in Asia and Europe.
Mr Leatt-Hayter said Westport’s work backed Ports’ own study from 2006 which picked Kwinana as the new port when Fremantle reached capacity.
“The issue now is that it will be 10 years to go through the approvals, so my challenge – and my team – is to keep the inner harbour as efficient as possible and make sure the impacts on the community are minimised,” Mr Leatt-Hayter said.
He noted Ports had voluntarily installed three air monitoring stations as a one-year trial, which had found no port-related pollution, and said he’d look at another for North Fremantle.
At the meeting Aboriginal custodian Corina Abraham spoke out against the outer harbour proposal, saying it would still have significant impact on the Beeliar wetlands, which stretch down to Mandurah, while also wrecking the environment at Cockburn Sound. She said the Noongar voice on the issue was not being listened to.
by STEVE GRANT