Politics

Merger plans divide Freo

NICK LOVERING

October 29, 2013

A plan to excise the residential parts of the suburb of North Fremantle from the wider City of Fremantle and merge them with a new, combined western suburbs council has split opinion in Perth’s port city just as the plan will split the city itself if enacted.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said he could not think of another Perth suburb that shared the name of a council it was not part of, as would occur if North Fremantle were to be split from Fremantle.

“The City of Fremantle has always been supportive of local government reform and larger councils,” Dr Pettitt said.

“What we’re not supportive of is the map the current government has put forward.

“In our view it doesn’t really capture Fremantle’s cultural community interest or Fremantle as an economic centre.”

Fremantle Traffic Bridge

Dr Pettitt said there were important historic links between North Fremantle, which is the only part of Fremantle north of the Swan river, and the rest of the port city.

The plan to cut the residential parts of North Fremantle from the City of Fremantle was announced by the State Government in July as part of a wider amalgamation package aimed at slashing the number of Perth councils from the current 30 down to 14. Under the plan, industrial parts of the suburb would remain in Fremantle.

One supporter of the North Fremantle excision is Fremantle city councillor Robert Fittock.

Cr Fittock represents constituents of the North Ward electorate which takes in North Fremantle as well as some areas of Fremantle located south of the river.

A North Fremantle resident, Cr Fittock said the amalgamation plans made “perfect sense”.

“I think historically and culturally we feel that we belong more to Fremantle but we also have some cultural and historical links to Mosman Park,” he said.

“That’s where the old limestone hills were that were mined many years ago to build the houses in Fremantle.

Cr Fittock said that for the past 15 months he’d been asking people what they think of North Fremantle officially becoming a western suburb.

“I’ve got consistent feedback from people who are either ambivalent or are for the amalgamation with the western suburbs,” he said.

He said the natural boundary of the Swan River made it easier to separate the suburb from the rest of Fremantle.

North Fremantle does have a history of separation from Fremantle, having spent more than six decades as an independent municipality. Originally part of Fremantle, North Fremantle broke away in October 1895, and the two councils were reunited in 1961.

The Swan River acts as a natural boundary

Convenor of the North Fremantle Community Association, Gerry MacGill, has lived in North Fremantle for almost 40 years.

Mr MacGill said he opposed the planned amalgamation but could understand why some residents were keen on the move.

“The argument is historic, cultural, and also about the quality of representation,” he said.

“If a big amalgamation takes place your representative will be unlikely to be a resident within this community which is fairly small, and your access is consequently reduced.

“You’d still have the postcode and the street address, but you wouldn’t be Fremantle anymore and for a lot of people that’s very important.”

The Government has been consulting for more than four years on its council merger plans, but is expected to make a final decision some time next year.

To the Government, the City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle have together submitted an alternative plan which proposes the merger of those two municipalities, and the retention of North Fremantle as part of the port city.

Photos: Nick Lovering

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