Main Roads: Running Sham Bridge Consultation process
Main Roads are running a sham bridge consultation process, with one public meeting left to go - Tuesday 31 August 6pm at North Fremantle Community Hall.
At the first meeting there was widespread support for repurposing the wooden heritage bridge, an entry statement to Fremantle of "exceptional significance" into a High Line bridge and running it along the lines of the Busselton Jetty model. But, apparently, Main Roads will delete all those references in their report.
The process is a sham, because Main Roads, while employing an Aboriginal presenter for Welcome to Country and presenting on Aboriginal history, and a video referencing extensive Aboriginal consultation, which of course there should be, Main Roads has not consulted a single historian or heritage expert from Fremantle to comment on the historical and heritage values of the site and the bridges covering the past 190 years.
Main Roads did seek feedback after the guided messaging was all over. This is the Fremantle Society response to the survey following the event:
* 2. Did the format of this consultation session allow you to fully participate and put forward your views?
No. Again, as in 2005, Main Roads didn't allow the option during their 'consultation' that the wooden traffic bridge should stay and thus the format of the forum did not welcome those views, and I understand views expressed about keeping and repurposing the bridge will not be passed on, which is a great concern, as many in the community will keep fighting to save the level 1a heritage listed bridge.
* 3. Were you provided with appropriate information (either at the consultation or prior) to enable you to fully participate in the discussion?
No. The 'welcome to country' was far too long and irrelevant in content. It was also insulting to hear that that presenter disliked the name of the school she works at (John Curtin High School), an insult to one of our great prime ministers. Then the Aboriginal person gave her views on the significance of the river crossing, which were not believable or based on evidence. But audience views were not welcomed. The main problem was that the Main Roads presentation on which people were supposed to rely for their comments to put on the sticky notes was deeply flawed, as, despite extensive consultation with Aboriginal people about their views on the place there has been NO consultation with local heritage or history experts on the significance of the site and the bridges in terms of history of the past 190 years. That is unforgiveable.
It is no good saying you employed a firm like Element for heritage guidance, as the Fremantle Society has already stated that our experience with that company is they write what their employer wants them to say.
4. Do you have any other feedback on how we can improve similar consultation sessions in the future?
There were good people present from the Main Roads “Alliance”. But Main Roads itself too often appear to have a predetermined position with little interest in genuinely listening. Main Roads have let us down with so many projects, often brutally done without aesthetic sensitivity (just look at the current unsightly High Street/Stirling Highway urban design disaster nearby).
Fremantle is an important heritage town, a world famous tourist destination, with the wooden bridge as an entry statement of “exceptional significance” and you need to consult with more than just the Aboriginal elders. Consult with the history and heritage experts. And, respect your own stellar history of wooden bridge building.
The Fremantle Society
photo: John Dowson August 2021 iPhone 12Pro Max