Below is my submission to the Local Government Advisory Board regarding the reform of local government boundaries supoorting the retention Samson within the City of Fremantle. Many thanks to the Samson residents whose contributions helped form the document.
Interestingly the City of Melville, while supporting Stock Rd as its boundary with Fremantle, made its own submission asking that it be able to retain Bicton, in contradiction with the submission it has lodged jointly with Fremantle and Kwinana.
This then begs the question, if Melville can keep Bicton; why not let Samson remain with Fremantle if that is what the residents concerned want?
Submission in support of the retention of the suburb of Samson within the City of Fremantle
Sam Wainwright, Councillor Hilton Ward, City of Fremantle
This contribution to the deliberations of the LGAB is wholly supportive of the submission made by the City of Fremantle with the exception that it proposes that Samson (and the eastern part of O'Connor) be retained by an enlarged City of Fremantle rather than transferred to the City of Melville.
This submission contends that keeping Samson with Fremantle (whatever its eventual boundaries) better serves the purpose of creating local governments based based on coherent and real communities of interest (historic, social, economic, environmental and other):
Samson was founded by "Fremantle people" and pre-dates the neighbouring suburbs also located to the east of Stock Rd. This is reflected in the fact that the earlier parts of the suburb were built before the construction of Stock Rd and were known at the time as Hilton.
When established as a locality in its own right the suburb took the name of one of Fremantle's most well known and respected Mayors, Sir Frederick Samson. The suburb's origins as an outgrowth of Fremantle are reflected in the identification of many of its residents.
2. The expressed will of Samson residents
In February 2013 the City of Fremantle surveyed its residents regarding their views on possible local government boundary reform and/or amalgamation. An overwhelming majority of those who responded to the survey were opposed to outright amalgamation with the City of Melville.
Not surprisingly a higher proportion of Samson residents did support amalgamation with Melville than the survey average. Samson is on Fremantle's eastern border and it is where the influence of Melville and Fremantle (historic, social and commercial) overlap.
In the survey 42% of Samson respondents supported “Options A & B”, both variants of a merger with Melville as proposed in the state government's first submission. Meanwhile 42% chose “Options D & E”, both of which proposed the retention of Fremantle (one including a merger with the Town of East Fremantle, the other with no change at all).
The balance of Samson residents (rounded up to 17% in the survey) selected “Option C” which essentially corresponds to the submission made by the City of Fremantle itself. This proposes the creation of a “Greater Fremantle” based on an amalgamation of the City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle, plus the transfer to the enlarged Fremantle of portions of Melville (Palmyra and Bicton) and Cockburn (Hamilton Hill).
“Option C” and the City of Fremantle's formal submission also propose that the eastern boundary of the enlarged Fremantle follow Stock Rd all the way north to the Swan River. This would see both Samson and the eastern portion of O'Connor transferred to Melville.
Notionally then 59% of survey respondents from Samson supported an option that would see them absorbed by the City of Melville. However the proposal to transfer Samson (and a portion of O'Connor) to Melville, while indicated on the map accompanying the survey, was not explained in text of the survey question itself at the place on the page where residents were asked to tick the box corresponding to their preferred option (whereas all other suburb transfers were duly explained).
The ambiguity created by the lack of clarity in the survey question regarding Samson is particularly unhelpful. However it seems highly implausible that those Samson residents who favour transfer to Melville would have done so by indicating a preference for Option C. Conversely it is far more likely that those Samson residents who indicated support for the creation of a “Greater Fremantle” did so on the very assumption that they would be included in it.
In the view of the author of this submission, the expressed will of the majority of the residents of Samson is the single most important factor to consider when deciding its future. If a more exhaustive and clear survey of residents' views were to indicate that a majority did in fact wish to be transferred to Melville then this submission would be redundant.
However the most coherent reading of the 2013 survey suggests that a narrow majority of Samson residents who responded (i.e. no more than 59%) wish to remain with the City of Fremantle.
3. The economic sustainability of the City of Melville
A central reason why the City of Fremantle's submission proposed to transfer Samson and the eastern portion of O'Connor to the City of Melville wass to effectively compensate it for the proposed loss of Palmyra and Bicton.
However the City of Melville already has over 100,000 residents, far more than the projected population of a “Greater Fremantle”, whether the variant proposed in the City of Fremantle or state government submissions.
Furthermore the state government's submission also proposes to allocate portions of the current Cities of Canning and Cockburn to Melville, including land collecting commercial and industrial rates. In the event that this happens there would clearly be no reason to go through the disruption of transferring the above mentioned portions of Fremantle to Melville by way of compensation.
4. Stock Road as a “natural” or legible boundary
The City of Fremantle submission proposes that Stock Rd form the entire eastern boundary of a “Greater Fremantle” and the City of Melville on the basis that this would be legible, logical and consistent. There is no question that this argument has merit, particularly when viewed on a map by an outside observer. However there are some important counter arguments.
On the ground the current boundary between the Cities of Fremantle and Melville (at O'Connor and Samson) is in fact very evident and “natural”, corresponding to a high voltage power transmission line. In this respect the boundary is more legible and less arbitrary than the many places where boundaries between local governments follow built streets. Ironically while Stock Rd does make for a relatively “natural” boundary in the vicinity of Samson and O'Connor, it becomes less so further north (i.e. where it borders Palmyra and Bicton).
Pushing the boundary west to Stock Rd would also have the consequence of splitting the locality of O'Connor between two local governments creating its own source of confusion. Both east and west of Stock Rd O'Connor contains industrial, commercial and residential areas. In this respect Stock Rd does not neatly divide O'Connor into two coherent parts.
While there is a certain logic to making Stock Rd the boundary between the local government areas, it brings with it its own contradictions and it is not clear that it would be worth the disruption given the existing boundary at this point is already well defined and understood.
The City of Fremantle's submission is coherent and well argued and has the general support of the author of this submission. However it is not at all dependent on the transfer of Samson and portions of O'Connor to the City of Melville as proposed, in fact there are strong reasons not to do this. As such this submission advocates the retention of the City of Fremantle with both Samson and all of O'Connor remaining part of it, whatever its future boundaries may be.