Rewind: 1999

FLY LITTLE DOVE

Five years after a letter to the editor from Norfolk Street resident Michael Young suggested Freo’s crafty marine folk put their hand to building a replica of the Dutch ship Duyfken, the Little Dove makes a majestic site as she paraded before the cafes along South Terrace on her way to being launched.

It had been a true grassroots project, with pensioners from Queensland pledging $5 for an ambitious fundraising campaign that looked to raise the full $3.7 million needed for a sailable boat.

The Dutch-born Mr Young hadn’t wanted his daughters growing up thinking the British had discovered Western Australia, which was an understandable concern given Freo’s connection to the Endeavour replica a few years before.

HELLO COCKBURN

But the Chook’s expanding – in February the fiercely independent paper launches its first Cockburn edition, though some in Hami Hill had been getting it previously.

RIDE RAGE

Getting a taxi out of Fremantle after a big night out takes hours … and hours. No one can explain why Northbridge is awash with taxis, while they’re incredibly thin on the ground in the port city.

Some punters just give up and walk home, which has Fremantle police Snr Sgt Byrne worried; he’s probably got the Claremont serial killings in the back of his mind, as they’re still pretty fresh in Perth’s consciousness.

DOGGY DEBATE

IT’S a brave council that gets between a dog and a beach, but Freo’s all for closing down the popular Dog Beach at South Fremantle.

A review is in the air until 120 dog lovers pack the council chamber demanding it be dropped.

Councillor Doug Thompson (no kidding, he was even there back then) reckoned the city had plenty of dog exercise areas and there was a strong community push against the beach, but that was undermined by colleague Phil Douglas who revealed there’d been just three anti-dog complaints about the beach.

BLOSSOMING GARDEN

Garden City undergoes a major expansion, though in this mega-mall age its 65,000sqm retail space seems pretty modest. The new works pave the way for K-Mart and Coles to move in, along with a bunch of specialty and fashion stores.

SOCIETY DAYS

The Fremantle society is in dire trouble, unable to even attract a quorum to its annual general meeting. Eventually they scramble a committee together, but it’s pretty much the same tired faces from the year before and they’re desperate for someone to take over.

During its 1970s heyday the society boasted up to 500 members, but by this time it’s less than 200 and plenty aren’t even paid up.

President Ralph Hoare warns the community not to be complacent; he says they’ve forgotten how hard it was to win heritage concessions and how easily they can be lost.

SUSTAINABLE GURU

He’s a “visionary” according to the Herald, and now local uni professor Peter Newman has been invited to share his radically new ideas on “sustainable development” to the White House in the United States.

He’s going to pitch to president Bill Clinton the benefits of breaking the dominance of cars and turning cities into self-contained villages where people walk around.

SUNNY DAWN

East Fremantle council loses its battle to scale back the proposed Sunny’s Riverside Apartments on the Swan riverfront.

The 30 three-bedroom units are too big for the site and it’s a bog-ugly complex says the council, but planning minister Graham Kierath’s having none of that and pushes it through on appeal.

LEIGHTON ACTION

The Court government drags out the old “commercial confidentiality” chestnut to hide a bunch of proposals from eager developers who’ve got plans to develop 17 hectares of under-used land along Leighton Beach.

The secrecy has surrounding community groups up in arms, with their first rally in February attracting a healthy crowd of 500. Six months later more than 5000 people hit the beach in protest as the real extent of the development become apparent.

Fremantle council’s an initial supporter of plans to redevelop the site, but just as a state government decision becomes imminent, it flip-flops and calls for a regional park instead. Mayor Richard Utting’s unimpressed, telling his rebellious councillors they risk undermining their credibility if they change their mind at the last minute.

And good thing too, because the wall-to-wall of luxury homes that’s eventually proposed to stretch the length of the beach is panned by pretty much everyone except the developers.

BLUE SKY

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of retired wharfies are at risk of developing asbestos-related mesothelioma, says the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.

He reckons plenty have already succumbed to a painful death after being exposed to its deadly fibres; Fremantle was the major destination for blue asbestos coming out of Wittenoom between 1947 and 1970.

One of those affected is Harry Simms, who felt a little out of breath playing bowls one day, only to get a nine-month death sentence from his doctor less than six months later.

OUTER HARBOUR ROUND ONE

A proposed comercial development at Jervoise Bay is doing the rounds, with former Labor premier and Fremantle federal MP Carmen Lawrence just about the only mainstream pollie who’s against it.

“In my opinion Labor should look at all the issues and what the total impact would be,” Dr Lawrence said.

Ten years later, they’re still looking.

But back then, there was a heap of opposition from locals concerned about losing their access to Cockburn Sound and the impact of the development on the environment; up to 4000 people attend a March protest organised by Com-Net.

One of the most vocal opponents was Greens senator Dee Margetts, who raised it in federal parliament, asking federal environment minister Robert Hill if has was aware of a damning EPA assessment.

END OF AN ERA

Fremantle’s last inner-city butcher can’t hold out any longer.

After 19 years John and Anna Marchesani have decided to relocate their butcher’s shop from 10 South Terrace to Hilton.

The old-style shops that were once their neighbours are being muscled out by cafes; gone are the bootmaker, the barber, and the library.

Some see the shifting dynamic, described as “relentless gentrification” as the beginning of the end of Fremantle’s role as a regional retail centre.

FAREWELL OUR WATTLEUP

The Court government announces the effective death knell for the close-knit communities of Hope Valley and Wattleup, saying the suburbs are to be rezoned from industry.

Resident groups in both suburbs say they’ve been worn down by the government’s relentless push to industrialise Cockburn Sound, but promise they’ve got a little fight left in them. Their hopes are buoyed when South Metro MLC Barbara Scott breaks ranks to side with her constituents, many who live there and hate the idea of having to move out.

COCKBURN BOMBSHELL

Elections are cancelled in Cockburn when local government minister Paul Omodei suddenly sacks the entire council and appoints three commissioners.

Although there’s been an ongoing inquiry into the city centred around some decidedly suspect sub-divisions, suspended councillors and Labor MPs suspect it’s connected to the recently-released FRIARS report which had recommended significant expansion of industrial development in the city.

That’s fuelled when links between commissioners and the Labor party are exposed – with Fremantle Labor MP Jim McGinty claiming they were jobs for “mates”.

There’s no getting around mayor John Grljusich’s conflicts of interest over the redevelopment of a block of land left to him and two brothers by their parents, though he insists the inquiry report is rubbish and full of contradictions.

LEADING THE WAY

It’s not just the current crop of Freo councillors who like tackling issues outside the usual roads, rates and rubbish. Mayor Richard Utting wins unanimous backing for a ban on any dealings with companies that use native timber for woodchips.

While he’s at it, the council decides to tell the Howard government to have another look at turning Australia into a republic.

WELCOMED

Around 350 Kosovar refugees are put up at the Leeuwin Barracks following their flight from their war-torn home.

BYPASSED?

Not this year, with the Fremantle Eastern Bypass making it into the Court government’s budget, even if it is just the forward estimates. The price tag has gone up from previous estimates, and it’s not expected to cost a princely $46.5m.

DEVELOPMENT BOOM?

Plans for a $78m housing development on the North Fremantle foreshore are floated. It’s to be called Northbank and will eventually be delivered, but not before the developer goes bust, leaving the council with a fair whack of the clean-up.

Meanwhile up in Applecross, developer Appin Investments wants to bowl over the old Raffles Hotel to make way for a 39-metre high hotel with apartments next door.

Heiress Marilyn Rogers also wants to develop the old woolstores on Goldsborough Street, getting approval for a 193-room hotel, 70 apartments and five offices. Still waiting.

Meanwhile the demise of the old crocodile farm at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour has opened the door for a brash new boutique brewery to take on the Sail and Anchor; it’s to be known as Little Creatures.

Not far away a controversial new multi-storey car park and retail centre is proposed for Collie Street. Having a car-magnet in the town isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and is particularly soured when its revealed a councillor who’s a big supporter of the project had accepted free tours of Darwin paid for by the developer.

Down in Cockburn, Coogee locals vow to fight development at Port Catherine (now Port Coogee) if a six-storey hotel complex remains. “The last thing this area needs is a bloody monstrosity sticking out on the coast,” says Coogee Progress Association president Kevin Allen, who also rails against the loss of more beach to the proposed marina and housing.

NEW MUSEUM

A new $35m maritime museum is flagged for Fremantle’s Victoria Quay, but some councillors and Fremantle’s precincts are unhappy about the proposed height of seven stories.

Museum chief Graham Henderson says the city can’t expect to house a museum of international importance in a “one-storey cottage” (nor Australia II) and his argument helps sway mayor Richard Utting, who rolls the precinct-backed councillors to give its opera house-like sails the nod.

UNHAPPY COMRADE

East Fremantle mayor Andrew Smith, owner of the Fremantle Herald, says a scathing state government review into his tiny municipality had the hallmarks of a Soviet show trial.

The inquiry was sparked mainly over criticisms aimed at the town’s colourful planner Greg Smith (whose always got an eye more on community benefits than developers’ wallets) but has a range of recommendations including the ditching of heritage assessment fees and a complaints handling process.

HEATHCOTE STOUSH

Melville activist Mike Coleman throws a cat amongst the pigeons when he delivers a 1000-strong petition calling on Melville council to drop its support for a residential development on the riverfront Heathcote site.

Up till now the council has been in lock-step with the state government in plants for a high-density development, but Mr Coleman has an ally in mayor Katie Mair who’s made approaches to the state government about buying the land.

That has her colleagues up in arms, as the land sales were supposed to pay for restoring the main building and within weeks she’s facing censure manoeuvres and is simply voted out of a deputation to meet with the state government. Powerbroker Alex Bajada describes it as a vote of no confidence in Ms Mair, though she sees it as a vote of confidence in the community which is right behind her.

The bad blood reaches fever pitch when her colleagues strip her of her mayoral entitlements, but she holds her ground, and as the year draws to an end there’s a compromise in sight, with poor Duncraig House to be the sacrificial lamb; sold off so there’s enough money in the kitty to keep the lowlands in public hands.

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