council news

Local government amalgamations

The new Minister for Local Government has confirmed that the October 2013 council elections will go ahead. However he indicated that the mayors and councillors would be sacked eighteen months into their terms with administrators appointed to facilitate amalgamations. The strong rumour we're getting is that he favours amalgamating Fremantle with East Fremantle and Melville. I hope this is not true.

You'll remember that in the survey of residents a narrow majority of Samson respondents favoured amalgamation with Melville, while an overwhelming majority in the rest of Fremantle rejected this option, rising to 69% against in Hilton. In all suburbs residents favoured a direct referendum on any proposed amalgamations or boundary changes. I suspect a whole lot of community pressure will needed to ensure residents get to have their say.

Esplanade Youth Plaza

There's been a lot of heat in the local press about the Youth Plaza to be built on the Esplanade. Below is a letter I submitted to the Fremantle Herald on the topic (but not published):

Despite all the heat and hyperbole over the Youth Plaza, there remains some criticisms of it which still needs to be rebutted.

I'm sensitive to the loss of unstructured open green space. However in this case I don't think the argument holds. At the recent Concert for the Kimberley, with over 20,000 in attendance, the slice of park next to the railway where the facility will be built was still largely empty.

It's been suggested that the the Youth Plaza could go on the car park adjacent to the Italian Club instead. But even if we were to annex this car park to the Esplanade as "compensation", it doesn't logically follow that this would be the best place for it.

Furthermore there's a good case that it would be better to green the car park at other end of the Esplanade so as to connect it through to Bathers Beach.

To be sure $1.6 million is a lot of money, even if $600,000 of that is coming from Lotterywest, and yes funds are going to be taken from the 2013-14 general play spaces budget to help pay for it. But let's put this big upfront capital expenditure in a bit of context.

PCYC to manage Hilton Community Centre

The May council meeting agreed to a twelve month trial lease in which the PCYC will be responsible for managing all the spaces at the Hilton Community Centre. The rooms will still be available for hire to community groups and the council employee currently based in Hilton will continue to manage programs from the Meeting Place in South Fremantle. The arrangement will see the centre open and staffed more in the evening.

The PCYC is looking for community members to join its committee. For more information contact Rebecca Slavin at fremantlepcyc@wapcyc.com.au or 9314 3157. Meanwhile a big thanks to everyone who donated to me and others participants in the recent PCYC fund-raiser.

Progress with Main Roads on Hilton Town Centre

On May 10 City of Fremantle representatives met with MainRoads to discuss the Hilton Town Centre. MainRoads commissioned a consultant to sketch some extensive street-scape concept plans; including underground power, light poles with banners, sculptural features, themed street furniture, trees, new footpaths, red bitumen and more.

However MainRoads has not yet put aside money for the project, and some measures such as putting high voltage power underground are very expensive. At our next meeting MainRoads will come back with a figure to be complemented by money from the City and hopefully developer contributions. When that happens we will have a sense of how much we can afford to do and be able to begin a proper community consultation process.

Hilton town centre project inches forward

On May 10 councillors and city engineers will be meeting with Main Roads to discuss plans for serious street-scaping in and around the Hilton shops on South St. This is a long overdue opportunity to make this area a proper town centre to the benefit of residents and local businesses.

Hopefully Main Roads (who have control over the road reserve) can be convinced that the main emphasis has to be on making a much more people friendly environment (for pedestrians and cyclists, more street trees and so on) and not just an exercise in traffic management. Most importantly the whole process has to be be subject to an extensive and genuine process of community consultation.

Crossing of South St at Collick completed

The construction of the pedestrian crossing of South St at Collick St has nearly been completed. At last there is a place for parents with prams, people in wheelchairs, kids on bikes or those with reduced mobility to cross at this end of South St. A big thanks again to Hannah Fitzhardinge and the parents at the Jarvis St childcare for campaigning to get this project done.

Local government reform survey

The recent survey of views on local government reform produced some mixed results. Respondents from Hilton were strongly opposed to a merger with Melville (69% against). In contrast options A, B and C (all of which would see Samson merged into Melville) gained a majority (around 55%) among Samson residents.

However the the survey only got 1227 responses of which only about 100 came from Samson. Is that big enough to make it truly representative? The Samson results were also partly clouded by the fact that on the survey map “Option C” shows Samson being merged into Melville, while the text explaining that option makes no mention of this.

The most consistent thing across all suburbs of Fremantle was the desire of residents to have a vote, on any proposed change to local government boundaries. Whether or not the Barnett government respects this wish remains to be seen. If you'd like a copy of the survey results let me know.

Inner Freo's shrinking pool of low-cost housing

A February 11 Special Council Meeting adopted a business plan to proceed with the Kings Square redevelopment. The project will be funded in large part through the sale of council owned sites, including the Spicer site (currently the Pine Warehouse and adjacent car park).

At the meeting I moved an amendment proposing that the future use of the site be for a mix of diverse, affordable and low-cost housing; rather than a hotel. However this was defeated 8-1.

The closure of the Henderson St Warders cottages and the demolition of the Homeswest units at Burt St will see the loss of 80 low-income dwellings in the inner city in one year, only partly offset by a maximum of 27 new dwellings in the new Burt St development.

I'm sure many of my fellow councillors were shocked to see the increase in the Liberal Party vote in the state seat of Fremantle in March. But with the sky rocketing cost of housing in WA, there's not many affordable dwellings anywhere west of Carrington St. This brings with it an inevitable demographic and political shift.

If council wants to retain Fremantle's character and diversity it will need to take stronger action to create opportunities for more affordable housing. The Bannister St car park site is being lined up for sale and I'll be encouraging council to prioritise affordable and low-income housing for this site too.

Kings Square redevelopment, an opportunity for diverse and affordable housing too!

On Monday 11 February there will be a Special Meeting of Council to consider the final adoption of the Kings Square Redevelopment Business Plan. The plan would see the the City sell some of its own commercial property and parking assets to the owner of the Myer site in order to pay for a complete rebuild of the council facilities, including the library. See more at: www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/cityoffremantle/Projectsmajor/Kings_Square_project

At the meeting I will be moving three amendments, the most significant of which proposes that the Spicer site (currently the car park in front of the Pine Warehouse) be used for a diverse housing development incorporating low-cost, affordable and disability accessible housing; similar to the Burt St development, rather than a hotel as is currently proposed.

The amendments are:

1. Change the first preference use for the Spicer site to be for diverse housing; incorporating targets for low income, affordable and accessible housing similar to those achieved in the Deed for the development 19-21 & 23-25 Burt St.

Reasons

1. While facilitating the provision of diverse and affordable housing and the establishment of a new hotel both satisfy objectives in the City's Strategic Plan, there is no question that a diverse housing development would respond to a far more urgent social need. The City will be, and should be, judged on how it responds to this need.