What do you want the Future Freo to be known for?

For many years and till as recently as 40 years ago Fremantle was known as  WA’s harbour city. Prior to containerisation, men were employed in sizeable numbers to man handle Western Australian’s import and export cargo. Freight rail was big in those days and the harbour north and south had a large network of sidings to manage that movement. Bicycles were a major source of transport for adults, and up until the early 1990’s the Fremantle Port Authority had probably the most comprehensive bike repair shop in the State. The footie oval was encircled by a bike track that was raced regularly until the 1960s. Men either walked or cycled to the harbour everyday in the hope of getting a days work, hence, they lived and breathed Fremantle. The port was the major source of employment for a sizeable proportion of Fremantle residents for decades. Like all ports it was a drinking and prostitution mecca. West of Beaconsfield was where the racing horses lived, there was no housing there. The beaches were places to fish for food, and income, eg, beach shark fishing for the fish and chip shops. During the war years South Beach had an enclosed beach and was the source of the classic, now traditional beach holiday weekend, for troops and residents;the race horses were regular early morning visitors.

These make up some of the things Fremantle was well known for, but hardly any are pertinent today.

In the late 1980’s Fremantle began its transformation in preparation for the America’s Cup. Even the Port Authority and Unions, knowing its significance had to change its ways and schedules to welcome and support the running of the events. The hospitality business remained and much of it is still here nearly 30 years later. Although the coming of Notre Dame University has killed off a high proportion of that from the west end, with their mass purchase of every available building and pub in that area. Sadly a very inward looking organisation.

We need to appreciate that the Fremantle Port Authority and the City of Fremantle are no longer joined at the hip. Fremantle as a city is no longer a port city; the Council has no  control, authority or even influence over what happens within the port north or south of the river. The port hasn’t been a significant employer of workers for decades. The west end does still house some local offices of major shipping companies, but these are not huge places of employment. The Maritime Union of Australia has its office north of fremantle bridge, but their members are no longer predominantly living in freo suburbs, and their numbers are small anyway, they certainly don’t ride bikes to get to work these days!

Equally sad is the gradual loss of access and control of the coastal and beach areas that adjoin our city.  Departments of Marine and Harbours, PTA and FPA control most of that land, with minimal public access and sight lines. When we get it, we are expected to be grateful! Much of that land is no required for any of the uses those Depts are set up to manage. So now they want to behave like Local Authorities in their own right. They want to compete with their neighbouring LA, ie, our City, to do what LAs do best! Made worse that we as a community have just sat back and let them take over, push us out, and our Council seem to be much the same, helplessness prevails!

So, the main point of this background from me, is what do you want Freo to become well known for in the future?

  • Do you want our whole local authority to be known by the eventual refreshed and revised City Ward? If not not, what and why?
  • Should our city be based on the features and facility for tourists, and secondly guests from within the metro using our services?
  • Or should our city be primarily about service provision for ratepayers and residents?
  • Should Freo become another place to graze in its shopping areas?
  • If grazing isn’t for you, is Lazing in our hospitality outlets, cafes, etc?
  • How about weekend events and processions?
  • Can we spread the joy (or burden) to other suburbs, eg, make better us of our green spaces outside the City Ward, with a focus on, you tell me, activities?
  • Can a city promote itself from multiple high points, or does it need just a single objective, eg, we were a port city, ho hum!

Tell me “What do you want Fremantle to become known for?”, in its post Port city and America’s Cup days. Please be a precise as you can, let’s see if we can avoid spin and motherhood!

 

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How do you Want Fremantle’s retail to grow?

Since the CoF created it’s Economic Development Strategy in the pre Amendment 49 days, the Council have said that the City, amongst other things, needs an enlarged retail sector. Since then there has been a lot of gripes from many who have complained about shops and hospitality closing. Implying everyone is moving out of Freo. Also conveniently ignoring that much the same is happening in every other City centre in WA and elsewhere.

So my challenge is to you readers: Either put up or shut up!!! That was pretty blunt wasn’t it :-), but you get my drift. The contributions I seek from you here is your list of retail, “What are your Top 20 Shops” that you want in the Local Authority, ie, the whole City of Fremantle. For each, I also need to know where you want them located? If that is in City Ward then be more explicit, What street? If their location is in the suburbs, at least I want the actual suburb you have in mind.

Obviously the Mayor and all the Councillors who have supported this strategy have a list in mind, so the very least I expect to see your contributions!

Hit me!!!

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GST – should we use this to enable every State to maximise its potential?

One of the problems with only focusing on percentages instead of the actual figures when it comes to National and State planning is that percentages are bound to enable the more powerful States to always remain the most powerful and the smaller to always remain the least powerful.

We need some genuine national planning. Labor seemed to make a start towards that when they established a population minister, but in reality that didn’t go anywhere.

WA is 1/3rd of the continent, but with only a 10% of the population. With nearly 50% of the nation’s coastline, WA has only one metropolitan city; that doesn’t seem rational or sensible. It doesn’t seem to be making the best use of the whole country, and I’m sure there are other arguments in other States along similar lines.

We should be moving towards maximizing the benefits to all States, and that will obviously mean that those which have enjoyed most of the benefits of growth since the first landing, need to back off and enable the other States to grow, reach their full potential, prosper and do some catching up. In fact for WA, that is an awful lot of catching up, as such a large state, some overtaking of the smaller states like NSW and Victoria, makes sense. Similarly, NT, Tasmania and to a lesser degree SA also need a greater national focus on growth. Queensland is already doing very nicely, thank you!

One of the obvious tools for enabling that is the mechanism for distributing GST. But that presupposes that some national planning has been done.

The rape and pillage of Australia’s resources at an every increasing rate, ought to also be part of National planning. The Gulf States have controlled the flow of their oil for decades; they know it will run out, so they recognise the need to plan its exploitation, rather than just let multinational rape and pillage! States, Territories and the feds just saying yes to every application to exploit the Nations resources is a travesty!

Why aren’t we planning where we have population growth? Which States, which cities, which country and rural areas, do we need new cities and even Metro cities? Perth cannot remain all things to all West Australians in perpetuity, it certainly needs at least two other metros, with a large physical, administrative, and economic separation from Perth.

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City Vision – Spreadsheets vs Images of lifestyle

Currently those who supposedly help us, the community, create our visions of the future, work in State and Local Gov’t planning Depts, Engineers, and if we are lucky innovative world leading Architects. But is that really the group who are driving the vision? My experience is not like that, rather the vision comes solely from accountants’ spreadsheets. The bean counters all talk the same language and they work for Developers, State and Local Gov’t. It is easy for them to converge on a simple and mutually agreeable number based solution for any problem. We need ‘x’ extra car parking bays, ‘y’ m2 of office space, ‘z’ extra permanent residents, ‘n’ m2 retail, etc. Is that ever likely to innovate, to create thinking outside the square; can they ever support ideas like building two new cities permanently distant and distinct from Perth, banning motor traffic during humane hours from the CBD, zoning land for sport and recreation instead of commerce, etc.

 

We, the community, are the primary stakeholders within any locality, within any city, we own most of the assets. We deserve be the treated as the most important stakeholder, instead of trouble makers. Let’s play the accountant’s game: 20,000 homes per Shire, value say $450k gives $9 billion in housing equity alone, then add in annual spending power, transport, etc. Compare that to any developer you like, and who deserves power and influence? Who deserves to be taken to lunch, into Council and their staff confidence? Why do we put up with our elected representatives treating developers instead of us this way?

 

Vision is about mental images. Visionary leaders can stimulate such ideas with actual pictures, models and the most articulate with word pictures. They never do it with accountants’ spreadsheets; the latter may be a trigger or be a source of data that initiates the creative process. I have never seen a vision I could imagine based on numbers alone, have you?

 

If any of us were asked to provide a vision, of our ideal for Freo, the chances are it would include, pedestrian friendly café’s and umbrellas, green open space with children and dogs running, beaches in summer, etc. But is that a useful starting place? If on the other hand I was to ask you to provide a detailed plan of your life, ie, what you do every day, every weekend, where you work, how you travel, where you have your meals, what and where you recreate; I suspect only a minority would say, I use the café every day for every meal, I use the green space with my kids and dog everyday and every summer we go to the beach every weekend. Many would actually say, something totally at odds with that. Yes, they want those amenities to exist for the occasions when they need them, yes they like the ambience, culture and aesthetics that would bring their neighbourhood, but actually something else dominates my time, eg, young family, my sport or hobby, and most of that doesn’t involve the Freo entertainment precinct. That raises a very different thought and question; what then does the Freo entertainment precinct mean to the bulk of ratepayers, who don’t use it themselves frequently? If it isn’t for the ratepayers direct benefit, nevertheless, the ratepayers have to provide and fund the infrastructure its support and maintenance, and hence are there worthwhile benefits to the bulk of ratepayers? Based on the latter, what vision do you have first of your own locale for your actual normal lifestyle, and secondary, for the Freo Entertainment Precinct?

 

It is hard to do that for Freo, our City. But then scale up to thinking about the Perth Metro, and beyond to Western Australia with a population of 6 million within the life time of our children, and it becomes more complex, but requires much the same thinking. Who is going to do it, if we don’t? Accountant for Developers, State and Local Gov’t! Who brings colour and music to our locales, shouldn’t they guide us in our visioning as much as engineers?

 

I think there is a very large disconnect between the needs of Freo ratepayers to fulfill their lifestyle needs and what the City actually focuses upon. Every other shire, metro or country, knows if they have amateur sporting teams, and the myriad of other clubs and organisations. But do you know where the Freo cricket, soccer and rugby clubs are based and play their games? Have you or your kids supported or played for them? Why are the suburbs that make up most of the Fremantle ratepayers, not the real driving force behind Freo future strategy and planning, why the one eyed focus on the entertainment precinct?

 

We have same problem when thinking of WA, planners and politicians can’t think beyond Perth!

 

Accountants spreadsheets seem to be more powerful! Sad as it is! Worse, we are in our apathy are saying that is ok!

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Do you want 16 storeys next to you?

The decision by the Minister Day to permit a 16 storey building in central Subiaco, that is totally out of scale with everything in the neighbourhood, in fact within the entire Metro, got me thinking.

Obviously we need our State Gov’t, architects and universities to consider, develop strategies and plans for a future Western Australia with a population of double and triple our current level. But is there real consideration being given to this or is it just reactionary shoot from the hip, short term stuff. It certainly feels more like the latter, and if so WA deserves much better.

The State Gov’t over decades has enabled and seemingly encouraged Perth to develop by merely enlarging the sprawl. I guess this has been the only way to fulfill the Australian dream of every family having a quarter acre block with a decent back yard. Obviously that brings other issues associated with sprawl, distance being the main one, socially and physically, eg, distance to the shops, school, services and administration, work and recreation. Public transport can’t meet all these needs for all possible permutations and locations, so car driven mobility becomes the only realistic outcome, even for those keen on active mobility of walking and riding. More cars lead to more car parks and roads, which increase the sprawl further still. Efforts to stop this are typically things like developers pressuring government at all levels to rezone green space and increase density as blocks become available for re-development. This leads to conflict between current owners and residents, with both their Councils and the developers they seem to more often support. The pace of WA population growth adds to this pressure significantly.

The Federal Dept of Infrastructure and Regional Development maintains annual data, and develops strategies and plans for, amongst other things ‘Australian Cities’, the latter being Australia’s cities of 100,000 or more. There are currently 16 such cities. WA despite being far and away the largest State occupying nearly a 1/3rd of the continent and almost half of its coastline has just one such city, ie, Perth, and nothing else even close to it! Even Tasmania has two such cities, Launceston and Hobart.

Yet the planning for the entire state continues to be based solely on developing Perth, and according to the ABS reducing the development and population elsewhere. Is this sane?

Perth must stop the sprawl, and Perth must eventually transition to increased density. But is the best way to put all our eggs only in that one basket and do it all now at a revolutionary rather than evolutionary pace? The risk is in doing so we actually destroy the core characteristics that differentiate Perth, and WA, from the other States, the characteristics we love, which make us call Perth and WA ‘home’?

Why aren’t we openly and actively talking about the location, planning and construction of WAs next two cities, in fact our next two metro cities? Places that can be designed with today’s and tomorrow’s needs designed into them from the start, instead of the complex process required for Perth to retrofit, density, different public transport, more local integration of industry and commerce, work, residence and recreation, and the growing conflict that entails with trying to do this at high pace? Would out of scale 16 storey buildings in Subiaco get a guernsey, if we had a vision for accommodating development in 3 metro cities to take the next 4 million West Australians, instead of Perth being all things, to all, in perpetuity?

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Refugees is a Growth Sector that No other Nation wants!

Marks response on Roel’s blog of the a graph of refugees/nation got me thinking.

Does the fact that other countries are also struggling with the refugee situation excuse Australia, I don’t think so. One of the most interesting things is the very high number that China is taking!

 

The recent announcements by the federal gov’t make me wonder! An order for 54 additional attack aircraft! Who are we kidding? 54 such aircraft aren’t going to defend our huge land mass, in fact thinking about defending our landmass by military means is stupid! Another reason given was about improving Australia’s standing in the eyes of other powers! Even if it worked, is it important? How much work is that going to generate for Australians vs the USA. Is our stand on refugees impressing anyone?

 

We have some industry sectors, was mining construction, now mining need more employees, as well as health, etc. In essence some economists argue Australia still needs to expand its population. That is in stark contrast to most European countries or India and China, who are more generous in their take of refugee, yet our Gov’t is turning away refugees.

 

Australia takes the cream of educated, trained and experienced people from other often 3rd world countries when it suits them, but won’t entertain retraining and reskilling not only our own population nor refugees.

 

Now we are being told that due to improving health and people living longer they must now work a lot longer, another 8 years to 73! What is the point of improving health and longevity, if its primary purpose is making the already wealthy even richer. Do you imagine that any of the pollies want either themselves or their children to work for someone else in a crap job until they are 65 let alone an extra 8 years. Why become a more affluent nation, if that doesn’t apply across the board, ie, only to the already very affluent? Federal pollies are in the top 2% of Australian Incomes, federal Ministers in the top 1%, ie, some the most highly paid public servants!

 

I don’t see this gov’t doing much to improve employment for high quality jobs! Slaves perhaps, but apart from refugees while they are getting new skills, who is to be at the beck and call of retired pollies? Who is going to clean their windows, do their cooking, housework, gardening, servicing the car, house decorating and improvements, serve them in cafes and shops. They clearly aren’t going to do this themselves! These service sectors are the growth employment areas!

 

On the other hand teaching and training refugees are high quality jobs, so why aren’t we developing that area of employment. Processing refugees are high quality jobs, why aren’t we expanding these jobs? Refuges are a growth sector that no other nation wants, Australia could be experts, world’s best practise. With NBN, Australia could do a large part of that here.

 

If the latter was the Australian way, every non refugee immigrant might then have to demonstrate their value to Australia, against the lost value of replacing another refugee and the employment it provides of processing and training them. One of the poorest areas of training is the English language skills of Australian immigrants; for a country so dependent on immigration, I would have thought they would have least mastered that one area, but they clearly haven’t. Many immigrants not just refugees have very poor oral and written English skills, even after a few years of living here!

 

I needed that rant!

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Does our Council know their ratepayer needs?

How can a Council serve its ratepayers without a very good idea about their needs and aspirations? But, has our Council asked us? Where do Fremantle ratepayers spend a typical week, and what would encourage them to do more of it in Freo?:

• Working hours: where and how do they get there, routes and transport mode,
• What do they do for recreation? Where do they go to get this, how often, transport mode? Is it free recreation like walking their dog, playing in the park or beach, Sunday Arts Centre concerts? Or is their interest not found near Freo?
• Similarly for their retail needs,
o Household, grocery and fresh food;
o clothing;
o white goods, etc
• Do the ratepayers use the extensive hospitality available in Fremantle, eg,
o how often to do they eat out, in food halls, cafes or restaurants, in Freo or elsewhere?
o How often do they use the Freo cafes for just a coffee and socializing?
• Would they move into the CBD into smaller accommodation such as apartments, explicitly so they could participate in the Freo entertainment precinct lifestyle?

I would expect the answers for the tiny proportion of City Ward owner/occupiers to be very different to the Freo Suburbs where most of the ratepayers live! Hence, who are the beneficiaries of the changes to City Ward that the Mayor and Councilors are driving? Is this really what the Ratepayers need and desire? Is the emphasis on the entertainment precinct appropriate? Household demographic will obviously play an important role.

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