Zero rate revenue increase in Fremantle budget

Fremantle Council has adopted a 2020-21 annual budget that features no increase in rate revenue and a freeze on the majority of fees and charges.

The decision to maintain rate revenue at the same level as the previous financial year was made in recognition of the financial impact of COVID-19 on ratepayers and the business community.

The 2020-21 budget was developed in an environment unlike any other in living memory.

The tremendous public health, social and economic upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all in ways that we could not have imagined a short time ago.

We know there are many Fremantle residents and businesses that have taken a big financial hit as a result of COVID-19, which is why we’ve chosen not to have any increase in rate revenue.

We’ve also adopted a new hardship policy to provide relief to ratepayers facing financial stress.

It must be remembered that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the City’s finances as well. We estimate we will lose about $4 million in revenue in 2020-21 from things like parking and commercial rents.

That means we’ve have had to make some very tough decisions to tighten our belts and choose to focus on the provision of core services and the delivery of our capital works program.

The council will monitor this position during the year to ensure any improvement is delivered back into community services or recovery projects to support our community.”

The situation with rates has been made more complicated by this year’s revaluation of properties by the state government’s Valuer General.

While the City has committed to no overall increase in rate revenue this year, individual rates notices may go up or down depending on the change in the Gross Rental Value of specific properties.

Almost three quarters of Fremantle ratepayers will see their rates notice for 2020-21 either stay the same or go down compared to last year’s rates bill. Ten per cent will see an increase of less than two per cent, and 16 per cent of ratepayers will see their rates go up by more than two per cent.

Some commentators have argued that because on average GRV’s have gone down rates should go down by the same amount, but that’s a misunderstanding of how rates are calculated.

Every year councils work out how much revenue is required to provide the services and facilities the community needs, and then calculate the rate-in-the-dollar based on that.

This year because on average GRV’s in Fremantle have gone down by about 10 per cent the rate-in-the-dollar has gone up by 10 per cent, but the amount of revenue collected will stay the same as last year.”

Despite the financial impact of COVID-19 the 2020-21 annual budget still includes funds for a substantial capital works program, including:

  • Completion of Walyalup Civic Centre and Library
  • New Kings Square play space
  • Public realm upgrades at Newman Court and Kings Square
  • Fremantle Golf Course, club house and community facility
  • Fremantle Markets building works
  • Arthur Head conservation works
  • Container Deposit Scheme refund point at Fremantle Recycling Centre
  • New Fremantle Park car park

In addition to adopting the 2020-21 annual budget at a special meeting last night, the council also endorsed a new Financial Hardship Policy.

The policy was developed to assist ratepayers that may be experiencing financial hardship and require a different approach to paying outstanding rates and service charges.

The support offered under the policy includes the City accepting reduced payments and establishing an alternative payment plan, pausing the payment of rates, administration fees and charges, ceasing penalty interest for up to six months and suspending debt recovery action.  

For more information on how local governments calculate rates please visit the Council Rates Explained page on the WA Local Government Association website.

Local kids give new play space a big thumbs up

East Fremantle Primary School students and teachers join City of Fremantle staff and councillors at the official opening of the new Frank Gibson Park play space.

Students from East Fremantle Primary School have given a big thumbs up to the City of Fremantle’s new play space at Frank Gibson Park.

The students were able to test out the new equipment when it was officially opened at a special community event last week.

The kids had a big say in what was included in the design of the new play space.

Just a few months ago this playground was looking pretty worn out. It was about 20 years old and due for replacement as part of the City’s play space renewal program.

To find out what people would like to see here and what sort of activities local kids would like to do the City talked to more than a hundred people, including community members, precinct group members and netballers who play at the Frank Gibson courts.

We also visited the kids at East Fremantle Primary School, who created some fantastic models and designs which gave us some really important input.

Our landscape architects then took all of that feedback and incorporated it into the final design, which has resulted in this brilliant new play space for kids of all ages to enjoy.

The Frank Gibson Park play space project retained some of the features of the original playground like the barbeque, climbing net and established trees while adding a new playground combination with sand play underneath, a rock wall slide and climbing feature, three new swings and a new nature play area and cubby house.

Frank Gibson Park is just the latest City of Fremantle playground to undergo a facelift.

In recent years the City has installed new or upgraded play equipment at Sir Frederick Samson Park in Samson, Grigg Park in Hilton, Davis Park in Beaconsfield, Davies Reserve in White Gum Valley, Gilbert Fraser Oval in North Fremantle and Fremantle Park in Fremantle.

The City has also built an entirely new adventure playground at Tuckfield Oval on Cantonment Hill and created pocket parks in Hilton and White Gum Valley.

A highlight of the Kings Square Renewal project will be a major new play space inspired by Fremantle’s industrial and maritime history.

The Kings Square play space will include features like cranes, bridges, train tracks and shipping containers, as well as natural elements including water and trees, bold lighting treatments, interactive soundscapes and tactile nature play elements.

Skate Park Deja vu

Cottesloe’s great skate debate feels a bit like Freo cira 2013.  There’s been some pretty over the top claims about skate parks as places of graffiti and youth behaving badly and just for lower socio-economic, uneducated areas

But as has been explained to WA Today and The West, the lesson of Fremantle’s Esplanade Youth Plaza (EYP)  is one which should give Cottesloe residents comfort.

Freo’s EYP has become a hub for skaters, scooters and BMX from the ages of 3 to 63. It has even exceeded the expectations of its supporters as great family facility with almost no graffiti or anti-social behaviour issues and as a major attracter to business in the area.

Making your average skate park is always going to face a fair chunk of community opposition. This has traditionally been dealt with by putting the skate park on some unwanted bit of land next to a highway or in some other neglected corner of the city. So when the City of Fremantle decided to turn this on its head by placing it Youth Plaza at the centre of it most loved park it unsurprisingly created a major storm. In fact it made the front page of the West as the “Battle for Freo”.

Given the ingrained opposition skate parks have in the community, an important element of pulling this off successfully is to engage your community early and widely in the design and location of the facility. Co-design workshop that attracts people of all ages will ensure both a better design and that your community comes for the ride and has a sense of ownership of the park on completion. This co-design was important in overcoming NIMBY reactions that we have seen some more extreme versions of in Cott.

The location of the youth plaza at the Esplanade Reserve was carefully considered based on being centrally located and highly visible, easily accessible, and  integrating well with existing social and play facilities. Or to put it another way: making it highly visible, not hiding it away!

But it is the quote by Griff Longley that best sums it up:

“I think it is fundamental to the health of communities that young people are embraced and valued. That they aren’t treated as a policing issue and pushed out to the fringes where their annoying habits are less likely to get in the way of adult sensitivities.”

I get a sense the decision makers in Cottesloe get this too.

Take up the challenge and go plastic free this July

The City of Fremantle is encouraging residents to take up the challenge of going plastic free for a month by signing up for Plastic Free July.

Fremantle local Rebecca Prince-Ruiz founded the Plastic Free July campaign in 2011 after a visit to the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council’s (SMRC) Regional Resource Recovery Centre in Canning Vale left her shocked at how much plastic waste was being produced.

Ten years later, the campaign has evolved into a global movement that last year saw 250 million people across 177 countries commit to reducing the amount of single-use plastic in their lives.

The City of Fremantle and other SMRC member councils East Fremantle, Melville and Kwinana hveembraced Plastic Free July as part of ongoing efforts to increase sustainability and protect our environment.

Plastic Free July is an established and successful way for people to reduce single-use plastic waste every day at home, work and school.

To begin with people can focus on eliminating the top four single-use plastics – takeaway coffee cups, plastic shopping bags, plastic straws and water bottles, and then for more of a challenge they can try to eliminate all single-use plastics for a month.

By making just a few simple changes in their daily lives people can help to create cleaner communities, alleviate the recycling crisis, reduce landfill waste and mitigate the effects of climate change.

People who sign up to the Plastic Free July challenge will receive weekly emails providing tips and tricks from participants around the world on how to help reduce single-use plastic waste.

Posting a favourite plastic-free tip to the City of Fremantle Facebook page will also automatically enter you into a competition to win a copy of the new book ‘Plastic Free’ by Plastic Free July founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherfold Finn.

The City of Fremantle was at the forefront of the campaign to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in Western Australia, and in 2018 adopted a Sustainable Events Policy that prohibits the sale or distribution of single-use plastics at all City of Fremantle run events.

To sign up to the Plastic Free July challenge enter your details at plasticfreejuly.org and complete the Pesky Plastics Quiz, or visit the Plastic Free July page on the City of Fremantle website.

Community input crucial to design of new Fremantle Traffic Bridge

Fremantle Council is urging the state government to ensure the local community is properly consulted on the design of the replacement Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

The state and federal governments committed matching funding to the $230 million project last year, while earlier this year the new bridge was included on a list of projects to be fast tracked as part of the state government’s COVID-19 economic recovery measures.

The new bridge provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver an iconic infrastructure project in Fremantle.

The City of Fremantle has been advocating for the replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge for many years, so we welcome the investment by the state and federal governments in this much needed new infrastructure.

The traffic bridge is a critical gateway into Fremantle so we want to ensure that the design of the new bridge is befitting of its prominent location and that the overall project helps to improve the connectivity between North Fremantle, Cantonment Hill, Victoria Quay and the river foreshore.

The City of Fremantle is already receiving significant community correspondence on this project and it’s important we get this right, which is why we’re encouraging the state government to consult widely with the local community and listen to what they have to say.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Fremantle Council voted to request that Main Roads WA commence community engagement on the new bridge as soon as possible, and that this engagement process include a full and transparent evaluation of at least two different design options and bridge alignments.

The council also adopted a number of design principles in relation to the project including:

  • The bridge should demonstrate excellence in design and create a memorable gateway experience. 
  • The public realm resulting from the project is safe, attractive, connected and inviting. 
  • The character of the North Fremantle townsite is protected from additional traffic impacts and extended towards the river.
  • The project should deliver uninterrupted connectivity of the PSP cycle path to Fremantle and North Fremantle rail stations. 
  • A significant portion of the existing heritage-listed Fremantle Traffic Bridge is preserved, especially at the southern end, and able to be used and activated.
  • The significance of the location to Traditional Owners is clearly understood, respected and interpreted in the design.

We understand the community concern and the complex issues regarding this major project and we expect an open and transparent community engagement process from Main Roads WA.

While the council will reserve its final decision until after the consultation process is complete, the principles we have adopted provide a very clear message about what we see as integral to the project’s success.

The existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge was officially opened on 15 December 1939 and was originally designed as a temporary structure.

It was temporarily closed in 2016 after erosion around its pylons made it unstable.

Fremantle calls on state to co-fund urgent Round House conservation works

Fremantle Council has voted to formally request the state government contribute $500,000 towards urgent conservation works at one of Western Australia’s most important heritage sites.

Last night the council voted to commit $500,000 towards works to improve the safety of the severely eroded cliffs at Arthur Head – the site of the historic Round House – and called on the state government to match that commitment.

The need for state government support to carry out essential conservation works is becoming critical.

The Round House is Western Australia’s oldest public building and arguably our most important historical site.

Over the past decade City of Fremantle ratepayers have spent more than $3.5 million on the management and maintenance of Arthur Head and the Round House, but the scope of the works now required to make the Arthur Head cliffs safe after decades of erosion goes above and beyond what would normally be expected of a local government.

Given that Arthur Head and the Round House are owned by the state and are a place of great heritage significance we believe it is reasonable for the state government to share the cost of these urgent conservation works.

This will finally allow us to take down the unsightly fencing and scaffolding that has been needed to protect people from falling rocks at one of our most popular tourist attractions.

At a time when both the state and federal governments have declared their intent to support vital community projects with COVID-19 stimulus money, I am hopeful we will get the help we need to preserve this hugely important part of the state’s heritage.  

In March 2018 the City of Fremantle closed the Whalers Tunnel under the Round House and fenced off areas at the base of the cliffs in the historic Arthur Head Reserve after receiving advice that overhanging rock could be unstable and posed a safety risk.

The tunnel was reopened after the City erected temporary scaffolding at the western entrance to protect pedestrians in the event of a rock fall.

The City also commissioned geotechnical and heritage experts to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the condition of the cliffs and man-made walls at Arthur Head and make recommendations on how to limit further erosion and ensure public safety.

Those recommendations, including remedial works worth an estimated $1.8 million, were endorsed by Fremantle Council in April 2019.

The works subject to the $500,000 funding request to the state government include reinforcing the western entry to the Whalers Tunnel and the construction a new rock fall canopy, and extending the retaining wall on the eastern side of Arthur Head near the railway line.

The Round House was the first permanent building built in the Swan River Colony and is the oldest public building still standing in Western Australia.

It was built as a jail and opened in 1831, with the Whalers Tunnel added in 1838.

Due to the exposed marine environment, vandalism and well-intentioned but damaging repairs carried out during previous decades the building now requires urgent conservation works.

Arthur Head was substantially quarried between the 1830s and 1960s, which reduced the size of the headland by 60 per cent and left the quarried cliff faces exposed to the harsh coastal environment.

Freo the perfect place for WA film hub

The City of Fremantle is putting itself forward as the perfect place to establish a production hub for WA’s film and television industry.

Last week on the Seven Network’s Flashpoint program American actor and producer Kate Walsh said Western Australia was an enticing location for major international film and television productions but required a studio with sound stages to make the most of the opportunity.

The Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice star, who has made a temporary home in Perth during the COVID-19 pandemic, even hinted that Fremantle would be the ideal setting for a project she had in development.

The port city was an obvious choice for a film production hub. We are really keen to establish a thriving film and television industry here in Fremantle, which is why the council adopted our Film Friendly City Policy in August last year.

Fremantle is a really attractive destination for film makers because we’ve got a great mix of locations, from beautiful heritage buildings to big industrial warehouses, funky shops and cafes and the river and the ocean.

 Plus we’re already home to a number of film-based production companies and have a lot of talented and creative people who would be an asset on any film set.

Establishing a film hub in Fremantle represents a great opportunity for local businesses that could provide services ranging from accommodation and catering right through to set construction and transportation.

There are lots of sites within the City of Fremantle that would be perfectly suited to a large scale studio and production hub.

The support on offer through Fremantle’s Film Friendly Policy includes having a single point of contact at the City of Fremantle to assist film productions with approvals, advice and local information.

The City will also waive or reduce filming permit fees, provide parking for production vehicles and assist in identifying temporary office space for the production crew and write letters of support to potential funding bodies or other stakeholders.

The level of support offered is based on criteria such as to what extent the film will promote Fremantle as a visitor destination, the size of the production crew and how long they’ll be based in Fremantle, the number of local jobs created and the production’s potential audience.

For more information visit the Film Friendly City page on the City of Fremantle website.

Ord Street protected bike lane to improve safety

I am increasing of the view that protected bike lanes are an essential part of any good bike network so it is really good to the creation of a protected bike lane along Ord Street.

The improvements involved the installation of a series of traffic islands along the southbound cycle lane between High Street and Knutsford Street to create greater separation between cyclists and cars.

The Ord Street project is the latest in a series of upgrades designed to encourage more people to take up cycling.

One of the silver linings with the COVID-19 cloud has been the explosion in the number of people getting out there and riding a bike. Cycling is not only fun and good for your health but it’s also an environmentally friendly mode of transport.

There’s lots of evidence from all over the world that shows people feel a lot safer riding a bike when there is a physical barrier between them and the traffic.

Ord Street is identified as a key bike route in the City’s recently updated Fremantle Bike Plan, so it’s great that we’ve been able to do this work and make that section a lot safer for cyclists.

The Ord Street southbound protected bike lane was installed in conjunction with scheduled road resurfacing works between High Street and Knutsford Street.

The works also included widening the bike lane on the northbound carriageway through a minor relocation of the existing traffic lights at High Street, and improving the pedestrian crossing points near Knutsford Street by increasing the size of the refuge islands.

As with all City of Fremantle road renewal projects, waste materials such as the old asphalt and concrete kerbs will be recycled.

The City has also this week expanded the bike parking next to the Kiosk Café on Beach Street, opposite the East Street jetty.

The work was done using a new concrete called Envirocrete, which substitutes a percentage of the cement with a more environmentally friendly alternative and uses recycled water in the mix.

The City of Fremantle’s Bike Plan 2019-2024 was adopted in September last year and sets the City’s priorities for bike infrastructure projects, programs and promotional activities for the next five years.

To read the Bike Plan click here.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt tests the new protected bike lane on Ord Street.

One more week to take advantage of Freo’s free parking

Visitors to Fremantle have one week left to take advantage of the City of Fremantle’s free on-street parking.

As part of a suite of measures to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Fremantle decided back in March to offer free on-street parking in the city centre until 30 June.

With one week of free parking to go now isthe perfect time to come to Freo and savour all of the delights the port city had to offer.

It’s been wonderful over these past few weeks to see Freo come back to life again as the COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

The free on-street parking has been a very important measure to help those businesses that have continued to trade throughout the COVID-19 restrictions by making it easier for customers to make a quick dash into town to pop into a shop or pick up a takeaway.

Unfortunately it can’t last forever because the City’s finances have also been hit hard by COVID-19 and parking is an important source of revenue for us.

But there’s still one week of free on-street parking left, and with further easing of COVID-19 restrictions coming into effect on Saturday now is the time for people to come down to Freo and reacquaint themselves with their favourite shops, restaurants and cafés.”

While on-street parking in the Fremantle City Centre is free until 30 June, time limits still apply.

For information on where to park in Fremantle visit the Parking page on the City of Fremantle website.

To find out about Fremantle businesses and attractions go to visitfremantle.com.au.

Mayors unite for cleaner freight

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Melville Mayor George Gear and East Fremantle Mayor Jim O’Neill. 

Local government leaders along the Fremantle Port freight link are banding together to call for road freight improvements for industry and community.

The mayors of Fremantle, Melville and East Fremantle have put their collective support behind cleaner freight initiatives that will enable more efficient use of the road network by capping freight volumes and placing stricter controls on the types of trucks allowed to transport freight.

The mayors are calling for:

  • A new Fremantle Port accreditation system that will bring in cleaner and quieter trucks and over time ban older dirtier trucks.
  • State government incentives for clean, quieter trucks and ultimately a zero emissions truck fleet based on hydrogen and electric vehicles.
  • Government to work with industry to incentivise these quieter trucks to run outside of business and especially peak hours.

The intent is to reduce the effects of noise and diesel pollution on local residents by ensuring only cleaner and quieter trucks can access the port.

City of Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Melville Mayor George Gear and East Fremantle Mayor Jim O’Neill said each of their councils had had plenty of feedback from residents fed up screeching brakes, exhaust fumes and congestion on roads at peak times.

The three mayors said they would ideally like to see a working group comprising Fremantle Ports, Main Roads, the Freight Logistics Council, Western Roads Federation, Transport Workers Union, and local councils form a working party that can make recommendations to State Government on the best approach.

A key focus would be encouraging freight operators to upgrade to cleaner, more modern trucks included Euro 6 trucks and ultimately electric and hydrogen vehicles.

Delivering cleaner freight initiatives should happen whatever the outcomes of the impending Westport Taskforce Report on the future of Fremantle Port, as it would deliver great benefits.

Regardless of what happens with the port in the long-term, we all want to see greater productivity, better efficiency and less community impact of freight movements to and from Fremantle.

Trucks that are quieter, cleaner, more efficient and can carry full loads would enable a more efficient utilisation of the road network, delivering improved operating efficiencies and reducing impact on local residents and the environment.

There are plenty of examples around Australia and the world where this has happened to great effect.

Possible options to achieve cleaner freight outcomes include:

  • Requirements for all trucks to have emissions control technology, such as exhaust gas recirculation.
  • Limiting truck movements during peak commute times and smoother freight runs encouraged through green light coordination on Leach Highway.
  • Roadworks to remediate areas of high risk and noise, such as the pending upgrade of the intersection of High Street and Stirling Highway with potential for other improvements along other sections of Stirling and Leach Hwy.
  • Increasing day time rail freight via a dedicated line on the pending new Fremantle Traffic Bridge and exploration of coastal shipping – the ‘blue highway’ – are other options.

Why are clean freight initiatives needed?

  • Australia has one of the oldest truck fleets in the world, with an average of 15 years. Up to half of the trucks driving in Australian cities were built before 1996 and have no pollution controls.
  • Air and noise pollution are major causes, not only of hearing loss, but also of heart disease, learning problems in children and sleep disturbance (World Health Organisation).

Where has this been done elsewhere?

The Port of LA in the USA operates multiple near zero- or zero-emission technologies to move goods from ships.