Is it about us or what developers want?

JOHN DOWSON is the president of the Fremantle Society and a former deputy mayor of Fremantle.

THE Future of Fremantle committee was set up over a year ago and this week the WA Government have a full five-day program of meetings and discussions at the Maritime Museum.

Two members of the Fremantle Society executive have been attending.

All the right buzzwords were trotted out and all the cliches put on the table. 

‘Affordable’ housing reigned supreme, as though developers are lining up to build cheap housing on expensive beach front land.

Unfortunately, no-one put forward anything exciting as attractors to what in essence is a degraded, contaminated set of former sandhills, albeit in a great location, with great potential.

Confusion was evident as to what was actually being discussed – Fremantle or the 260 hectare site of port land over the river?

The Mayor of Fremantle gave a speech in which she repeated what commentator Roel Loopers originally surmised as a “brain fart” – that the CBD of Fremantle needs 10,000 more people living near the railway station. 

Besides the fact that would destroy the character and scale of Fremantle with 30-storey buildings, her council has taken 13 years of ‘revitalisation’ to increase the CBD by just 1,000 people, in mainly poor quality new buildings, sending the council broke and lowering CBD real estate prices for residential and commercial real estate because council refuse to address anti-social behaviour issues. 


But still, the mayor repeated her silly idea, picking a ludicrous target when something achievable should have been nominated.

The 260-hectare site in North Fremantle was subject of a high rise vision by Richard Weller when he wrote his $99 book Boomtown in 2007 in which he proposed 87,874 people living on this port land. 

That shocked a few people back then but is still part of the constant push by the Property Council of WA and Business Council of Australia to pursue endless growth and mass immigration so developers can get super rich.

The target of the Future of Fremantle committee is between 60 to 80,000 people, and in addition to that there will be those who come to work in the ‘mixed use’ area, and those who come to visit, if indeed the area has exciting reasons to  visit, as it should.

Tuesday saw a raft of transport people attend, to discuss how to get so many people in and out of this sandy cul-de-sac onto roads already overcrowded. 

Astonishingly, an urban designer from Fremantle council wanted her table to demand NO CARS for these new residents, who perhaps could just fly around in one of the new super sized drones mentioned by somebody at another table. 

Prof Josh Byrne also argued for apartments without cars, saying the water table doesn’t allow underground basements, though it hasn’t prevented them at Leighton. 

Josh did have environmentally interesting suggestions, including a “circular economy” with an emphasis on being “nature positive.”

Peter Klinken, WA’s Chief Scientist argued for Fremantle’s economy to diversify, and for Fremantle to be the co-ordinator of new technologies.

James Moore, who works on innovative districts around the world and was brought here by Hatch Roberts Day, who are running the workshops, is from Florida. 

Having never been to Fremantle before, he cast a fresh pair of eyes over the landscape and could envision a spine through the site of up to 10-storey buildings, dropping down to 2 and 3 at the water’s edge on a site he labelled “spectacular.” 

Various community people in the room were quite happy to nominate a lower height for new buildings of 3 to 7 storeys to match existing Leighton developments and avoid a Gold Coast future.


In a suggestion relevant to the site’s history, James suggested using containers as temporary installations, though no-one seemed to value the existing large sheds on various sites which are quickly being dismantled, but which could make temporary art studios and spaces to use until more grandiose plans are put forward.

Victoria Quay was not mentioned at all, even though it is the part of the site ready for development.

Victoria Quay is of national importance because of its heritage. 

The scale of development should complement the scale of the existing sheds and the heritage of the adjacent West End, as the history of both is intertwined.

The program for this week includes a Community Open House between 4.30 – 6.30pm on Friday (if you’ve got an early Herald) at the Maritime Museum – go and have a look.


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