I expect Freo Council meetings don’t rate highly on most of your “things  I must read about” list. But for those of you that do want to have a look at what’s going on below is a summarised version of some key bits

1. Warders Cottages

In principle support for City to lease and refurbish historical Warders’ Cottages

Council has given in principle support to a Department of Housing (DoH) offer to the City of Fremantle for a 50 year peppercorn lease over the historical Henderson Street Warders’ Cottages.  In return, the City would take financial responsibility for their conservation, refurbishment and ongoing maintenance.

Council’s support for the offer is subject to a publicly available and advertised business plan being produced which will address key areas including the ability for the cottages to generate enough income to service loans and fund future maintenance.

The City will also seek a contribution from the DoH and the State Government for initial conservation works.


The Warders’ Cottages are three blocks of two storey limestone terrace houses constructed between 1851 and 1858 as part of the Fremantle convict establishment.

Originally constructed to accommodate the families of the warders at the Fremantle Prison, the cottages were used as government housing for over 140 years until the closure of Fremantle Prison in 1993 when they were sold to the Department of Housing and renovated for use as social housing.  They have since been disused by the Department of Housing and are vacant.

The cottages have significant cultural heritage significance and have been recognised by their inclusion on the State Register of Heritage Places as well as the City of Fremantle’s Municipal Heritage Inventory and the Heritage List in the City’s local planning scheme. Their location in the heart of Fremantle’s tourist district is another factor which adds to their importance.

The City has for some time been investigating taking on the conservation and regeneration of these significant heritage buildings for a new sustainable use. The City also sees the project as a catalyst for the reactivation and revitalisation of this part of the Fremantle CBD.

It is proposed that the regenerated buildings would be sub-let to a suitable tenant(s) and the income derived from the properties used to pay for their initial conservation and refurbishment plus their future maintenance and management.

To undertake these works the City would need to borrow a substantial sum of money and as such, the lease agreement is regarded as a major land transaction under the Local Government Act 1995. The City is therefore required to prepare and publically advertise a business plan.


2. Essex Street road repairs

Council has approved works to repair parts of Essex Street damaged by the root systems of trees located along the street.

The works, which will include road re-surfacing and new kerbing as well as the reconfiguration of the tree planting pits and some parking bays, have a total estimated cost of $280,000.  These funds will be allowed for in the 2013/14 annual budget.


As a result of the Maritime Pine street trees planted on both sides of Essex Street now reaching maturity and outgrowing their original planting pits, extensive damage to the road surface and footpath is occurring. The damage to the road surface has resulted in a number of car bays having to be blocked to prevent use.

The City engaged a professional Arborist to investigate and report on the trees’ health and condition, their suitability and possible actions to rectify the problem. The report outlined several recommendations for the council to consider. The decision was made to repair the car parking road surface and kerbing; and to reconfigure the tree planting pits and parking bays.


3. Fremantle Park hydrozoning and ecozoning

Council has approved the installation of a new bore, pump and irrigation system to deliver significant water savings at Fremantle Park.

The new system will enable hydrozoning and ecozoning of various sections of the park to address key actions of the City’s 2009 Water Conservation Plan.

Hydrozoning identifies different zones to enable high irrigation (for active playing fields), moderate or minimal amounts of water (more passive recreation areas) or no irrigation (areas of minimal use), thus allowing for reduced water use. This hydrozone treatment is anticipated to reduce current water usage at the park by 10% and will cost ~$350,000.

The ecozone concept uses the landscape design practice of grouping together plants with similar water, soil and microclimate requirements to conserve water by improving water efficiency. Ecozoning will see the creation of mulched garden beds consisting of native plants and will be used predominantly in the non-irrigated areas.


The City is working towards creating sustainable and efficient management of its water allocations. The use of hydrozoning and ecozoning will address key actions of the City’s 2009 Water Conservation Plan and satisfy the commitment the City has made to the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability initiative.

Fremantle Park, located adjacent to the Fremantle Leisure Centre, is one of the City’s largest and most used reserves, with sporting clubs on lease agreements and the Christian Brothers College regularly using the grounds for sport classes.

The City recently undertook the consultative and concept design for this project. In order to best determine the use of the park, two community consultation events were conducted, with stakeholders invited to comment. These stakeholders included all sporting clubs who use the park, nearby schools, residents and the broader Fremantle community; and event users of the park such as ‘Blues and Roots’.


4. Esplanade Reserve reclassification to Class A Reserve

The City of Fremantle will advise the Department of Regional Development and Lands (RDL) that  the City has no objections to a change in classification of the Esplanade reserve to a ‘Class A Reserve’ (Esplanade is currently classed as ‘Reserve’).

Class A Reserves afford the greatest degree of protection for reserves of Crown Land, with any major amendments to a Class A Reserve required to be tabled before both Houses of Parliament, and may be subject to a motion of disallowance.

As the City has no intention to seek major amendment to the Esplanade Reserve or to change its purpose, the reclassification would have no practical implications and on this basis there was no objection from council.


The RDL received a request for the Esplanade Reserve to be reclassified from its present classification as a “Reserve” to a “Class A Reserve”. RDL then formally requested from the City of Fremantle, as the management body for the Esplanade Reserve, council’s position with regard to the proposal.

The reclassification of the Esplanade Reserve is sought by community members who “consider the reserve worthy of this level of protection to ensure that the social, cultural and heritage values of this important public open space are preserved into the future”.


5. New festival on the cards for Fremantle

Council has agreed in principle to a five year agreement with Sunset Events for the popular St Jerome’s Laneway Festival to be held in Fremantle from 2014 onwards.

The decision was made given the significant economic and cultural benefits that the festival would bring to Fremantle, including the activation of the Esplanade Reserve and the West End of Fremantle.

The City has agreed to  waive fees (approximately $17k) to Sunset Events for the hire of the Esplanade Reserve.


St Jerome’s Laneway Festival began in Melbourne in February 2005. From 2006 to 2008 the festival branched out to include Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and in 2009 the first event was staged in Perth at the Cultural Centre in Northbridge. The event expanded into Singapore in 2011 and this year saw the event launched in the USA.

Since its first Perth event in 2009, the attendance in Perth has grown from around 4,500 people to a sell out 8,000 people (the maximum capacity of the Cultural Centre in Northbridge).

The popularity of the event in WA has created a very strong demand for tickets and therefore the need to review alternative venues to cater for this demand. Laneways Festivals aim to deliver a unique event in a special space and with a cutting edge line-up often never seen before by Australian audiences.



There has been a bit of debate over the last week about whether  a  redevelopment authority for Fremantle is necessary for revitalizing our Port City after the the idea was mooted by MLC Simon O’Brien (who was previously the minister for transport) late last week.

As I said to both ABC TV and the Herald, my view is that a state government controlled redevelopment authority for Fremantle is an option of very last resort.

The Fremantle Council would much rather the collaborative Fremantle Union process was better supported by the State Government and we work cooperatively with the  State to get the planning and development outcomes that Fremantle desperately needs – including a fully integrated Victoria Quay Project, light rail to our south and east, and a State Government department in the centre of Fremantle ASAP.

A collaborative approach with Fremantle Ports, Department of Transport and other State Government agencies is the way to go.

Simon O’Brien has indicated he is coming from wanting some longer term thinking about the future of the Fremantle Port and its impacts on Fremantle. I have no problem with that concept but I think the Fremantle 2029 visioning process and other roundtables would be more suited than a redevelopment authority for Fremantle for this task – BTW first workshop on this Thursday. Hopefully Simon will be there too.

Click to hear to watch the ABC news story on the item

A Fremantle Redevelopment Authority? ABC News June 2013

herald development authority


Just a quick remember for those of you that missed it. You’re invited to the first Fremantle 2029 community visioning workshop!

ONE – the workshop is almost full so we need you to RSVP so click here to do that.

TWO – if you have a laptop you can type on please bring it. Thanks!

Details below and online at

visioning workshop 1


This time four years ago I had just announced I was running for Mayor and wrote a Thinking Allowed for the Herald on the importance of constructive civic debate – especially in election years. Given the quality of public debate recently, it felt timely to update that piece for election year 2013. Enjoy:

2013 is the year of elections and elections in Fremantle are an exciting time. You can feel the buzz in the air as Fremantle’s best and brightest discuss ideas to make Fremantle an even better place to live and work. Residents, old and new, debate Fremantle’s future and prospective politicians listen and respond as they harness the collective knowledge and wisdom of the community. Positive and innovative ideas visions emerge in an environment of frank and honest debate that respects that all sides have important insights to contribute. Well this is the way it should be.

Instead in 2013 we had a State election of quite a different nature and not one that made many of us proud to be a Freo voter. While some important issues were raised, few were addressed with positive, innovative ideas. The serious challenges facing Fremantle such as our long term sustainability, housing and affordability, and the City’s challenges as a regional centre were barely debated.

Some of the public meetings I attended on important issues like law and order were allowed to descend into vitriolic personal attacks where the complexity of the issues were ignored.  Similarly the recent FICRA public meeting over the youth plaza was also characterised by more of a mob mentality than a civil public discussion on the best location for youth facilities of this kind.  But it is perhaps the recent vitriol towards the prime minister that best demonstrates how low standards in public debate have fallen in recent times.

But it is difficult for important discussions on Fremantle future to occur while the focus is instead on negativity and personal attacks. Every time the debate focuses on individuals and name-calling it ceases to be strategic and solution-focused. Reducing issues to black/white and good/bad too often excludes the potential for synergies and useful compromise. The outcome will be better for all if we play the ball not the person.

In the coming months Fremantle needs an open and positive debate about what kind of city it wants to be. The evidence suggests that without strong leadership Fremantle will slowly decline as regional centre with fewer jobs and less residents. Parts of the Fremantle CBD already have more seagulls than shoppers these days. Fremantle is at a cross roads and while this Council has had a clear agenda of turning Fremantle around there is still a long way to go.

Do we want to remain a busy, vibrant regional centre or just a quiet but pleasant tourist and entertainment town – a quaint Elizabethan village? How do we be a green, sustainable city without substantial new development and affordable housing? How can innovative new developments best complement the City’s heritage?

As we leave one election behind and prepare for two more in September and October it is worth considering that how we behave in these elections reflects on what kind of community we want to be and what kind of Council we want to have. I want to be part of a community that proudly has robust debates over important issues but in doing so encourages and respects a diversity of views. It is worth remembering that often those who engage in negativity and personal attacks do so because they do not have a positive vision for the future. And it is a positive vision that Freo desperately needs right now.

Build with mud 2009


This week at the Fremantle Arts Centre is an interesting collaboration called the Clipperton Project.

The Clipperton Project (TCP) is an international initiative that uses notions of exploration, journey and discovery to inspire and empower members of the public to interact with diverse perspectives, peoples and disciplines. What started in 2011 as an expedition to Clipperton Island in the Pacific Ocean is now a multidisciplinary arts/science research project focusing on isolated locations.

The Clipperton Project’s Professional Development Workshop, What We Don’t Know Yet takes as a starting point the fact that the world that we inhabit is a limitless place of absolute fascination. They believe and argue that we are all stakeholders in every debate, and that the key attribute to skill-making is not knowledge but willingness to risk and to step over the horizon, into other territories, other spaces, professions and new ways of free thinking – leaving aside ego, prejudice, localism.

What We Don’t Know Yet will feature speakers and participants from various disciplines, discussing and presenting ideas and ways that professionals of all genres can rethink and review their work in a context broader than a given industry might usually allow. Led by The Clipperton Project founder and director Jonathan Bonfiglio.

Check it out:

clipperton project FAC

How Bike Friendly Cities Beat the Opposition and Became the New Normal – excellent article

Former New York mayor Ed Koch envisioned bicycles as vehicles for the future, and in 1980 created experimental bike lanes in Manhattan on 6th and 7th Avenues where riders were protected from speeding traffic by asphalt barriers. It was unlike anything most Americans had ever seen—and some people roared their disapproval. Within weeks, the bike lanes were gone.

Twenty-seven years later, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saw the growing ranks of bicyclists on the streets as a key component of 21st century transportation, and have built more than 285 miles of both protected and unprotected bike lanes. They had studied the success of similar projects in Copenhagen and the Netherlands and learned how to make projects more efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

These “green lanes” and pedestrian plazas were an immediate hit but ignited a small but noisy reaction from people unhappy about projects in their neighborhoods, including Bloomberg’s former transportation commissioner. Lawsuits were filed, while columnists with the conservative New York Post and sometimes-conservative New York Daily News thundered about the inconvenience to motorists and supposed dangers to pedestrians. New York magazine declared the situation a “Bikelash” on its cover.

Pressure mounted on Bloomberg to sack Sadik-Khan and rip out the bike lanes. Anthony Weiner, then a Congressman from Queens and mayoral hopeful, told Bloomberg in 2011 he would spend his first year as mayor attending “a bunch of ribbon cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.” Bicyclists everywhere worried that progress toward safer streets in New York and around the continent would be slowed down.

Two years later, Sadik-Khan is still commissioner and the Department of Transportation continues to install bike lanes and pedestrian plazas across the city.

Two-thirds of New Yorkers call bike lanes a good idea in the most recent New York Times poll, compared to only 27 percent who oppose them. All of the major candidates to replace Bloomberg as mayor expressed support for bicycling at a recent forum, notes Paul Steely White, executive director of the local group Transportation Alternatives.

“Bike lanes are the new normal in New York,” White adds. “People in East Harlem are saying we want bike lanes like those in other parts of town.”

And now another of Bloomberg’s and Sadik-Khan’s big ideas to improve New York has hit the streets: the bike sharing system called Citi Bike, which is the largest in North America with 6,000 bikes available at 330 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. There was an inevitable reaction from neighbors when the racks went in on the their blocks, but a lot of the criticism is now coming from people in neighborhoods without Citibikes who want them .

What rallied the public around bicycling? “It was a combination of things,” reports Ben Fried, who chronicled the debate as editor of Streetsblog, a web magazine covering transportation in New York. First, independent polls debunked the myth that New Yorkers disliked bike lanes. “Actually a strong majority from throughout the city supported them,” Fried told me.

Fried also credits neighborhood leaders and bicyclists with mobilizing grassroots support for bike lanes, both on the web and at public meetings. “In the end, politicians need to see that bike lanes are a win for them.”

Pressure for new biking facilities came also from business leaders who see better biking conditions as anasset for their companies. High-tech executives at 33 firms—including Foursquare, Meetup, and Tumblr—urged Bloomberg to implement the bike share system “as a way to attract and retain the investment and talent for New York City to remain competitive.” The Hearst Corporation recently announced it will pay employees’ cost to join the Citi Bikes program. “It’s a cool New York thing to do and good for fitness,” says Hearst spokesperson Lisa Bagley. “Our decision is driven by what are employees are interested in.”

Tim Blumenthal, president of PeopleForBikes and the sister Green Lane Project, stresses that “Bike issues need to framed in the context of what they mean to the city, not just what they mean to people who bike. In New York City, for example, more green lanes, better bikeway networks, and the new Citi Bike system will benefit all residents and visitors by reducing traffic, noise, and air pollution—making city life a little less frenetic for everyone.”

All this represents good news for cities coast-to-coast. “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere,” says White, paraphrasing the old song “New York, New York.”

Other communities will no doubt face their own version of “bikelash,” but the high-profile debate in New York over bike lanes highlights two key assets of protected green lanes:

1. Bike lanes create safer streets for everyone. “It’s the safety stats that carried the day,” notes Ben Fried, editor of Streetsblog. “They’re pretty indisputable.” Crashes for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists drop on average by 40 percent on streets with green lanes, and sometimes as much as 50 percent, according to a memorandum from Deputy New York Mayor Howard Wolfson. Bike lanes of every kind also lead to significantly fewer bicyclists riding on sidewalks, Fried notes.

2. Bike lanes are good for business. Shop owners are sometimes zealous opponents of bike lanes, which they claim will suffocate business by reducing traffic and eliminating parking. Yet businesses on 9th Avenue, the first major green lane in the city, saw a 49 percent rise in retail sales, compared to 3 percent across Manhattan as a whole, according to research by the New York City Department of Transportation. Another study of consumer patterns by researchers at Portland State University found that shoppers who arrive by bicycle spend 24 percent more at stores per month than those who drive.

Unfamiliar ideas like bike lanes always spark opposition—at first. “Pushback is inevitable,” Fried explains. “It doesn’t mean the project is flawed. Once it’s built, the constituency for it will grow.”

The issue isn’t simply a New York state of mind. Complaints about a “war on cars” have echoed around Seattle from a small but persistent chorus opposed to bike lanes. In response, the Cascade Bicycle Club commissioned a poll of Seattle voters (conducted by the independent research firm FM3 using a scientifically rigorous sample of 400 respondents), which found that 79 percent view bicyclists favorably, 73 percent want to see more protected green lanes, and 59 percent support “replacing roads and some on-street parking” to build green lanes.” Only 31 percent believe Seattle is “waging a war on cars.”

(Green lanes in Washington, D.C. have also been denounced as a “war on cars,” even though only one percent of D.C.’s roads are dedicated to bicyclists, according to computations by Washington City Paperreporter Aaron Wiener.)

In Chicago, there’s no organized opposition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision of boosting the city’s economy by providing 100 miles of green lanes and 550 more of on-street bike lanes. More than 16 miles of green lanes were built in 2012. One project on the South Side’s historic Martin Luther King Drive, however, did raise aesthetic concerns, which were solved by shifting the protected green lane to a parallel street and adding buffered bike lanes (wide swaths of paint separating car traffic from bikes) to King Drive. The community engagement process around this issue resulted in neighbors forming the Bronzeville Bicycling Initiative to encourage more people to bike in this historically African-American community.

None of this stopped Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass from warning that the mayor’s plans “foreshadow the day that cars will be illegal.” He also targets “little bike people” as “free riders” who don’t pay to keep up the roads and as scofflaws who defy traffic laws.

Ron Burke of the Active Transportation Alliance sees “little bike people” as a compliment, noting “how little space we take up on the roadway, how little wear and tear we cause, and how little our facilities cost within the grand scheme of transportation spending.”

Burke agrees with Kass that bicyclists who endanger other people should be ticketed, but deconstructs his claim that motorists pay their own way on the streets. Between 24 and 38 percent of total road costs in Illinois are not covered by user fees such as gas taxes and vehicle stickers, even when you count federal funding as user fees, Burke explains, citing a study from the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Kass is one of a number of commentators across the country who regularly target bikes and bicyclists. After New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill wrote, “I hate bike lanes…they are steering some people like me to road rage” one reader responded “All I hear is an old man yelling, ‘Get Off My Lawn.’”

China Part Two – Jinzhou and the challenging road to a more sustainable future

I came to Jinzhou City to attend, along with others mayors from around the world and officials from China and the United Nations, a conference on sustainable coastal cities and to share what we have been doing at the City of Fremantle in creating a green, low carbon city.

I met with and heard Chinese Government officials who proudly pronounced their commitment to renewable energy and I saw this boldly demonstrated with whole hillsides covered in solar PV, miles of super efficient LED street lights run off solar panels and innovative wind power installations (see below).

But these sustainability achievements – many that would put most western cities to shame – were demonstrated against an unsettling backdrop of soulless high-rise development, the literal mining of whole mountains, China’s building of a new coal-fired power station every 10 days, and an approach to oceans that was more about nationalistic utilisation than it was about marine conservation.

My time in Jinzhou was a jarring set of juxtapositions that are still bouncing around unresolved around my head. It is clear the road to sustainable development for China is not a straight-forward one. Interestingly the governments of Jinzhou City and China showed a far greater commitment to sustainable development than we have seen in Australia for many years. Similarly, the Chinese people showed a much stronger engagement and commitment to addressing climate change than I now see in Australia- despite the Chinese using less than quarter of the carbon emissions per capita compared to us Aussies.

Despite this it was hard not to come away with a view – perhaps magnified by the grey polluted skies – that development and industrialisation trumps all else in China. Like the rest of the world, the road to a more sustainable planet is one is which the challenges greatly out-number achievements. But by attending sustainable development forums like this you can only hope start a global action for a greener future inches a little closer.

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