Letters 1.5.21

Showstopper

THE McGowan Labor government’s announcement that we will deliver Western Australia a $100 million film studio at Victoria Quay has attracted plenty of attention as bold, transformative projects tend to do.

The feedback from WA’s creative industries, as well as Freo residents and businesses, has been overwhelming positive. Of course, our government’s projects are not above rigorous scrutiny, and so I thought it was worthwhile to let readers know a bit more about the project. 

It has been suggested that a film studio is not needed. This is not credible. Perth and Hobart (a city one-tenth our population) are the only capital cities without studios, and the lack of facilities has led to many missed opportunities for WA, including access to significant federal grants towards film projects. South Australia, for example, have invested in their own state-funded studio facilities, and in 2020 saw five times the total production spend of WA.

It has been claimed that Victoria Quay cannot meet the industry’s technical requirements, but the facility, which will be adaptable and well-suited to compete for projects, enjoys considerable support from the industry as former Screenwest CEO Ian Booth has told the Herald. 

Some critics have called this process a land-grab by developers. Not so. The Victoria Quay studio will be built by the McGowan Labor government and owned by all Western Australians. 

Last year, the McGowan Government sought proposals from the open market to develop a film studio for WA. There was significant interest in this competitive process and ultimately, Home Fire Creative Industries made a strong case, and was selected by the Department of Finance to proceed to stage three of our Market Led Proposals process. This will include further due diligence and negotiation between the parties.

Questions have been raised about the compatibility of the studio with Victoria Quay’s heritage value. I am not insensitive to those concerns, but I urge people to keep an open mind. It is possible to revitalise the precinct while protecting, and even enhancing, its unique heritage value. Home Fire Creative Industries is a consortium including Hesperia, who undertook the rightly celebrated transformation of the State Buildings in Perth, creating a vibrant destination with great respect for built heritage.

The State Buildings showcased not only practical utilisation of heritage buildings, but public interface and activation. There is every reason to expect a similar outcome at Victoria Quay, with Home Fire’s proposal including public interaction with the studios and the co-location of complementary businesses. 

I make no apologies for the government’s selection of Victoria Quay as the location for this project; I have championed it.

Bringing a film studio to Victoria Quay was a major opportunity identified by the Victoria Quay Steering Group, which I chaired. We also identified the potential for a high-quality hospitality venue at A-Shed, which will now be transformed by Gage Roads in time for summer. There is more work to do, but these projects make a promising start. For those interested in other opportunities at Victoria Quay, our report can be found at: fremantleports.com.au/the-port/planning-and-development/victoria-quay-waterfront.   

Successive governments have failed to transform Victoria Quay and bring new jobs and vibrancy to the precinct. We now have the chance to realise this vision in manner that complements Fremantle, without diluting efforts to revitalise the CBD as past proposals, heavily centred on retail, threatened to do.

The studios will create 580 jobs during construction and up to 2,800 ongoing jobs in film production and precinct hospitality. They will attract new investment, and more local jobs, into an underutilised area with enormous potential, and cement Fremantle’s status as WA’s premier destination for culture, arts, and creative industries.

Simone McGurk
Labor Member for Fremantle

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