A Tale of Three Cities

Fremantle: 10 Year Turnaround or Turndown?

The Tale of Two Cities is an ancient tale which begins:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."

The Tale of Three Cities is a modern tale, with Fremantle, Merredin, and Esperance shown in the three images above.

The key point to be made here is that in terms of wealth, both Merredin ($455million) and Esperance ($498 million) have more assets than Fremantle ($454 million) - how on earth is that possible? Is that the sort of 'turnaround' that Mayor Pettitt promised more than 10 years ago? A city that has not grown its boundaries because all its neighbours refuse to amalgamate? A city whose population growth in the last recorded year was negative? A city whose income producing assets have crashed from $89 million 20 years ago to just north of $24 million today?

The 'turnaround' will be highlighted in a new comedy film to be screened Thursday 5 November, entitled "Freo's 10 Year Turnaround."

After the comic laughs,  Dr Pettitt and his mentor Peter Newman will be on hand to receive plaudits for how Fremantle is today. The developers, who have made so much money from the endless dumb deals struck by Dr Pettitt, will probably be at Wildflower or Bar Lafayette in Perth instead.

There is not room here to list all the 'dumb' deals which have left the ratepayers to pick up the pieces over the next few decades. The sale of $40 million worth of ratepayer assets for $29 million is a key one, especially when the properties could have been leased for a long period instead of sold, and remembering Sirona sold the Spicer site for a quick $1 million profit without developing it as intended. There is the $2 million loss paying out the Dockers when they were going anyway, the $7.8 million new depot site, etc etc.

The film will no doubt point to the large investments made in Fremantle by developers, and that would be good news if the end result was an improvement in the product (ie Fremantle and its heritage) and the perception of the quality of its brand.

But the product, the wonderful heritage place we have, has not been focussed on, and basics that affect the presentation of the product, like cleanliness and anti social behaviour, have not been addressed.

The drug crazed idiot screaming at parishioners in the Basilica during a recent Sunday service, and grabbing the altar cross while abusing parishioners with "F--- you! F--- you!" shows just how far we have to go.

Ideology and a hatred for Fremantle's history has seen heritage budgets slashed, and a King's Square which will be unrecognisable with its best trees gone, the building of an admin building which shouldn't be there, the removal of the statue of Australia's most decorated soldier, no archaeological interpretation, the removal of the Sportsmen's Walk of Fame, and the renaming of the historic square. 

The product and thus its brand, have been seriously damaged, and no number of government workers in a new shiny box adjoining King's Square will fix that problem. Those government workers are not there due to any clever deal negotiated by Council - in fact Mayor and Council failed in the number one imperative of the King's Square Business Plan- to keep Myer in Fremantle.

No, the government workers are here because two Liberal politicians - Barnett and Marmion - pushed the idea through Cabinet.

So desperate is Council to get King's Square working, they are considering offering 10 years free rent to a Fremantle business, contrary to their own policy, to house a tavern in their admin building. Yes, 10 year's free rent. A super dumb deal.

In 10 years, Fremantle Council has not tapped into the free wisdom available from local experts to improve the product that is Fremantle, or to enhance its brand.  It has never accepted any recommendation from the Fremantle Society and its experts. It has gone out of its way to ignore local expertise, but has paid millions $ to consultants and ideological mates.

The turndown of the past 10 years, obvious to anyone walking the grubby streets, will only be reversed by those willing to protect and enhance the product (Fremantle and its heritage) and promote that brand.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
4 November, 2020


with thanks to Colin Nichol

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