THE Round House has become too expensive for Fremantle council to maintain and should be handed back to the state government, according to mayoral candidate Hannah Fitzhardinge.
“It’s like trying to keep a pet elephant on a minimum wage,” Cr Fitzhardinge said.
Given its roles as the Swan River Colony’s first gaol, and later as a holding cell for Indigenous people on their way to imprisonment on Wadjemup/Rottnest Island, she said it would be ideally run by Fremantle Prison.
“It’s the oldest building in the state and is part of the story around the Prison and Wadjemup.”
Cr Fitzhardinge would include the Whaler’s Tunnel in the handover, but says whether the entire vesting of Arthur Head should be handed back needed more discussion.
But she says a council having responsibility for such a significant and large heritage asset was something she hadn’t identified anywhere else in Australia.
“In the 80s when the city took up the vesting, they were probably optimistic about how much money it could make,” she said.
The council is in the throws of spending about $1 million on repairs to the tunnel, surrounding cliffs and Round House, but she says that’s “just the just-urgent works” and at least another $1 million is needed.
Cr Fitzhardinge said the looming 2029 bicentenary of the colony’s founding provided a great opportunity for the state government to show some of the port city’s heritage “some love” given Arthur Head was where Captain Fremantle first stepped on the mainland.
Money saved from looking after the Round House could go into improving the city’s infrastructure, which in some cases is literally held together with gaffer tape.
“I think by and large the council staff want to do a good job, and even they are frustrated by the budget constraints,” she said while examining the South Beach playground equipment swathed in black tape.
“We need a massive lick of paint on our park benches and riverfront and oceanfront infrastructure.
“Everything doesn’t need to be sanitised with lines and hard edges, but you should be able to find a bench that’s safe and flooring that’s even.
“Right now we are a fixer-upper’,” she said of the port city.
Cr Fitzhardinge said the council should also look at adopting a developer contribution scheme based on the one operating in Cockburn for the last decade.
“The difference, and why is probably has not happened here before, is because Cockburn is greenfield.
“Because we don’t have that we have to look at a contribution for more diverse and larger developments.”
She said the scheme could involve quarantining funds to ensure they went into providing amenities, or it could incorporate some planning concessions.
She also reiterated her call for Notre Dame to “play a more significant role to compensate for their impact on the city” nominating students parking for free then using the CAT bus to get into the city for their studies.
by STEVE GRANT