Looking beyond Freo’s lockdown

Cafe and engineering firm owner Dave Furness, with his partner Rochelle Conway, says businesses have to be agile to get through Covid and prosper.

FREMANTLE is usually a place that “breaks down social distance, whether it be through festivals, music venues, markets or people just hanging out on the strip”, but that made it particularly vulnerable when Covid-19 stole those things from its residents, says mayor Brad Pettitt.

So is it possible to get back that vibe, and what will the port city’s business community look like once we’re on the other side – or will there even be another side?

These are the big-picture 

questions being pondered by the Fremantle Network’s first post-lockdown event Business in Freo: through the lockdown and beyond, which is being held at the Local Hotel in South Fremantle on Tuesday July 28 from 6.30-8.30pm.

Well-positioned

Dr Pettitt is hopeful Fremantle is well positioned to bounce back strongly from Covid-19 due to the Kings Square renewal project bringing new workers to town, and other developments recently completed or due to get underway. 

“This crisis offers the opportunity to encourage more local visitation from Perth people who might not have been to Fremantle for years,” he said.

Fremantle councillor Frank Mofflin is among the guest speakers; he said a diverse Fremantle CBD with more people working, living and playing in the area will help grow the economy.

“We must be bold, work together as a community and partner with others to create the Fremantle of the future,” he said. 

Joining Mr Mofflin will be Shelter WA CEO and State Recovery Taskforce representative Michelle Mackenzie, Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen, and Dave Furness owner of both a local cafe and an engineering firm.

Mr Furness said his message for the meeting would be that businesses needed to be agile to survive through Covid: “Prepare for the unknown”.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Danica Quinlan said positive property investment and a strong workforce around the city were important, while Fremantle needed to build on its momentum.

“We still need to advocate more strongly for investing in capital works such as Arthurs Head and the Fremantle Bridge to lead locals back to Fremantle,” she said. 

Ms Quinlan says while the tourism sector will continue to struggle until borders open, “locals  e mantle and the extension of the Jobkeeper gives new hope that businesses can stay afloat”. 

But White Gum Valley resident and former precinct convenor Mark Woodcock sounded a note of caution, saying Covid should give the council pause to rethink the city’s direction, policies and focus. 

“We have seen a huge amount of people work from home in a truly short time, and if this becomes a new norm the whole way the government and developers plan our communities will have to change.

“It might be time to expand regional centres and slow the higher density being driven by councils and governments in metro areas.

“Surely the view of Melbourne’s recent tower lockdowns sends a clear message of the challenges this form of accommodation will offer in a pandemic environment and the outbreaks it causes and drives.”

by KRISTEN RICCIARDI 

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