A NASCENT traders group wants the Fremantle Festival – complete with parade – reinstated to November.Around 20 traders gathered over a couple of meetings on Tuesday to share concerns about the economic direction of the city, with the local council’s consultation and the chamber of commerce’s advocacy in the firing line.
The meetings were called by local cleaning and events contractor Mia Kriznic and Kakulas Sister co-owner Mike Finn and included representatives from Fishing Boat Harbour businesses.
Ms Kriznic told the Herald she started out with the aim of prodding the council to improve its paltry Christmas decorations, but as Tent City in Pioneer Park grew she increasingly found herself called on to provide a voice for businesses.
“They wanted a snapshot of what the impact was on traders, and I can tell you, it was terrible,” Ms Kriznic said.
She used her previous experience working in government to get video footage of Tent City residents smoking hard drugs outside a local cafe to premier Mark McGowan’s office with a plea for him to take action.
“It was frightening people coming off the train, but I think if we had a pro-active business voice, we would have said unequivocally ‘no, Pioneer Park is not an appropriate place to set up a homeless camp so close to businesses, but we can work with you to find out somewhere more suitable’,” she said.
Ms Kriznic said businesses were desperate for the city’s anti-social problems to be sorted out, saying many were concerned the council was dominated by a social agenda rather than focusing on the “bread and butter” issues.
She also feels its destination marketing is pumping the city’s “alcohol economy” while its family-friendly flavour drips away.
But she says the biggest single issue is the council’s consultation with small businesses, noting the festival and Australia Day celebrations were radically changed without any reference to traders.
She’d like to see the festival returned to November, saying it marked an important change of seasons for a tourist city.
The council’s own foot traffic counter showed visitor numbers dropped by more than 10 per cent in November last year, putting the skids on the city’s post-Covid recovery, although the festival was likely responsible for a significant spike in numbers in July. The counter shows that overall foot traffic in the city is still half what it was before the Covid lockdown in March last year.
Ms Kriznic also wants an independent survey of residents and businesses to gauge their views on the axed Australia Day activities.
“Then if we could hold Australia Day celebrations in a similar format to the City of Perth and make sure we respectfully recognise our Indigenous past and celebrate the day,” she said.
The traders group, which isn’t yet incorporated and hasn’t got a name, is clearly a shot over the bow of the chamber of commerce; Ms Kriznic said many businesses weren’t feeling their interests were being represented and she’d spoken to many who thought they’d become too pally with the council.
But chamber CEO Danicia Quinlan said any suggestions the group were a representative body was misleading.
“The chamber notes that there has, and always will be, a small group of individuals who tend to get quite vocal in the lead up to local elections in Fremantle,” Ms Quinlan said.
“They try to push the negative face of Fremantle, and are quite anti the council, and also the chamber.
“This is evident in this instance in their correspondence, circulated with a number of our members cc’d in so as to appear part of a larger group.”
Noting the chamber’s 300 members from major corporations to micro-businesses, Ms Quinlan said that represented 5000 employees and 50 per cent of the annual business rates collected by the city.
“We have had a seat at the table at local, state and national level since 1873. This history gives us depth,” Ms Quinlan said.
by STEVE GRANT