While council deliver a mantra of sustainability the signs of a collapse in the Fremantle economy is glaringly evident in the CBD.

I took a walk around  the area and counted in excess of 40 properties which are empty, offered for lease, or moving. The total is probably closer to 60 as the Woolworth’s building houses a number of vacant outlets  as does the Coles Woolstore.  These pictures were taken within about 250m of the Town Hall

Very recently one new retail outlet, selling high quality home furnishings and decorations, has closed after six months. It was located in the Mall, opposite the Town Hall. The rent was $240,000,  higher than similar sized properties in downtown New York.

VILLA, closed after six months about a week ago. The rent was $240,000 a year but trade for this high quality retail outlet  didn’t materialise. This is in Fremantle Mall, opposite the Attwell Arcade development.

Shepherd’s News agency have to move from their prime spot. It holds the longest serving tenancy of Fremantle. The original Shepherd’s News Agency was established in this building in 1908 and the current business owners have been there for 26 years. They now have to move aside for developers.

Shepherd’s Newsagency have been located in the Manning building  since 1908. They are the oldest  business in Fremantle still operating from the same premises. Now they have to move to make way for development.

The Woolworths shopping centre, next to St Patrick’s, has been closed for a couple of years. It was gleefully broadcast that this would bring new life to the east end of the city. Opposite them the Hilton site, which used to contain a number of shops, is derelict and scheduled to become a temporary car park.

The Woolstores centre is hosting many empty premises. Even with a carpark in situ it was not able to survive

The centre  hosted about 20 retail and office business’s. They were not included in my count of about 40 empty premises.

The Hilton Hotel site, due to become a temporary car park. 

CODA, a mainstay of council’s PR sustainability spin, have closed shop and amalgamated with a Perth based company. CODA was a foundation stone of the Future Fremantle organisation, established to build a better Fremantle.


CODA’s vacant office


Coles Woolstores site is home to several vacant retail premises
A small selection of over 40 empty retail and office premises in the CBD is shown below.






And finally, in one vacant shop window the mayor delivers his mantra of a vibrant city.






In a lease approved by  Fremantle Council  for  Sunset Events ratepayers will fund a  $105,000 subsidy to help the financially troubled company to establish their micro brewery and 400 seat bar in J shed.


An extension of 12 months for the time in which Sunset implement the lease has been applied for and will be considered by council tomorrow, Wednesday 14th June.

In an application lodged with Fremantle Council   (7th July 2017) Benson Studio for Sunset outline a proposal which reveals a rent reduction of $105,000 in the first two years of the Sunset lease.

The rent for the lease  of the J Shed studio, situated on Arthur Head below the Round House and site for Sunset’s proposed micro brewery, is $83.950 per year. Over the first two years rent would have totalled  $167,900. Sunset are requesting they pay only $62,962 in that period. This represents a shortfall of $105,000 which effectively forces ratepayers to subsidise a private company’s startup. Several observers have commented that even without the subsidy the  rent is very cheap.

Buried deep in the 62 page lease the relevant clause states:

Item 8.       Rent: (clause 3.1)

$83,950.00 per annum plus GST

14.6     Rent Reduction

The Parties acknowledge and agree that during the period commencing from the Commencement Date and ending 24 months after the Commencement Date, the Lessee will pay Rent at a reduced rate and in the following manner

(a)        for the first year of the Term, the Lessee will pay 25% of the Rent; and

b)         for the second year of the Term, the Lessee will pay 50% of the Rent.


A number of  media outlets  have outlined some members of the events industry in Western Australia have had trouble paying creditors. Those businesses include Sunset who have been arranging financial settlements with their creditors.

Sunset are only ‘hopeful’ that extra time will help. The Application says: “Sunset has advised that it would be difficult in current circumstances for them to pay rent from July 2017 without the approvals they require to trade effectively. Sunset are hopeful that once approvals are gained, it will trigger investment and the ability to cover the rent and finalise the “Lessee Works”.


The application for the extension also says: “Sunset Venues have had ample time to gain required approvals and that the lease considers the scenario in which approvals have not been granted by the lease commencement date. Therefore, it is recommended that the request for an extension until 1 July 2018 be rejected.”

Council officers state the proposed leasing arrangements may continue in a state of ‘frustration’. They say “In the event that the approvals are not granted, the lease will continue in a state of ‘frustration’ where no outcome is achieved other than activation …”


Sunset’s management admit they are financially frustrated. Is it reasonable for ratepayers to subsidise them?

There has been considerable  angst among residents in the area of J Shed.  The issue of this lease and the request for a $105,000 ‘startup subsidy’ may have a strong influence on the outcome of council elections in October this year.

A number of councillors and organisations have been asked by Fremantle Backchat to comment.

North Ward  councillor Doug Thompson explained his considerations. He said: “Councillors are required to take into account a range of information before making a decision and to have an open mind  about decisions. My general approach to decision making is to give primacy to the information contained in the report and to the officers’ recommendation”

He continued:  “I keep an open mind ( as I am required to) in relation to information provided during a meeting and the issues raised in debate. In relation to your specific questions the decision in relation to the lease arrangements has already been made and is not being reconsidered. What I think about specific elements of the lease is irrelevant. The good governance recommendation by the Department of Local Government, and the Local Government Act,  requires me to support decisions made by Council, regardless of whether I, as an individual Councillor supported those decisions at the time.”

Ra Stewart, a mayoral candidate in the City’s October electoral said: “I am supportive of the officer’s recommendation to reject the extension of the lease commencement date. It would appear that Council has been fairly generous up to this point in time.”


The Mayor and City Ward Councillor Rachel  Pemberton have declared a conflict of interest and feel in that circumstance they are not in a position to comment.

Maryrose  Baker and Robert Mehan of Fremantle Inner City Residents Association declined to comment saying:  “FICRA is currently preparing a formal response for Council re the latest Sunset Events J Shed proposal.  We don’t intend to issue any statements on the matter as an Association nor as individuals right now”.

John Dowson was asked to comment as  President of the newly amalgamated Fremantle Society and the Fremantle Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association but chose to make a personal observation: “In terms of the J Shed lease Sunset may have a lot on their plate financially. Sunset and the Mayor may not want the lease to be a major election issue, raising again the question of the $5000 election donation from Chitty’s brother, and kick the can down the road until the October election is over”.


If council approve the application for a delay the controversial elephant in the room may  be given a lease of life.  If they do not Sunset will need to implement the lease from 1st July this year, complete with the already agreed $105,000 rent reduction but still under their admitted financial difficulties.

It does seem likely that the J Shed lease and Sunset Events will become an election issue which will need to be addressed by all candidates, particularly those for City Ward and for the position of mayor.


‘No Broken Promise to Green’ : DOWSON

Fremantle Society President John Dowson denies breaking a promise to support Claudia Green, former chair person of  FRRA, the Fremantle ratepayers association.


In a statement emailed to Fremantle Backchat he said: “The Fremantle Society did not renege on any agreement about supporting Claudia Green for city ward because it never made a decision to do so”. He continues, “I gladly applauded Claudia Green running for council, and I applaud anyone else who does so too.”

He explained that in a Fremantle Society monthly committee meeting the committee voted to “endorse and support” two Fremantle Society committee members who wanted to run for council. They are Michael Finn for City Ward and Catherine Hammond for Hilton. He continued, “There was discussion about FRRA folding and the Fremantle Society taking on their members and their website. There was no decision to agree about Claudia Green coming on the committee.”

Mr Dowson has not confirmed whether  he received a copy of minutes of the FRRA meeting at which he is said to have made an undertaking to Ms Green to support her as a council candidate for City Ward.


Fremantle Backchat has received a leaked copy of a letter, dated 7th June, written by Claudia Green to members of the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association (FRRA). It also contained  a copy  of minutes of the FRRA meeting related to  the amalgamation with the Fremantle Society.


In her letter Ms Green confirmed her decision to stand for City Ward was the reason for resigning from FRRA  saying she has been a resident of Fremantle for 25 years. “I have a solid track record of community activism, through FRRA and other activities.

“After years of membership of the FS, I considered I warranted some consideration if there was to be FS endorsement of any member, as I am more than competitive, and I am the only local candidate so far that lives in City Ward.”

Ms Green outlined that the Fremantle Society’s decision to endorse ‘two of its own’  “… has excluded both me and Fidele Camarda, who put our hands up months ago, from consideration. This should be of concern to FRRA members (and FS members), as we entered the merger in good faith, expecting good governance.”


She continued: “Unusually, for an Incorporated Association, the FS didn’t notify its membership that an item and motions to endorse their Committee members was on a FS Committee Agenda either.

“ …in conversation over the merger, early in February/March, when I announced my candidacy and the necessity to resign from FRRA, that support was offered by the President to me, and at the Special General Meeting of Members on 27 April 2017.

“Although the President now disputes this, a debate of ‘he said, she said’ won’t occur, as that commitment for support appears to be the least of the problems with these outcomes.”

Ms Green’s statement is contradicted in an email to FS members, dated 3rd June.  John Dowson said: “The Fremantle Society is very pleased that two of its committee members have volunteered for the daunting challenge of running for council in the October elections. Catherine Hammond and Michael Finn are both outstanding committee members with deep and long standing commitments to Fremantle, and the committee voted to endorse them both.
“The merger with FRRA had no conditions attached. The Fremantle Society and FRRA have always worked closely, and generally on similar issues.
“Claudia Green, in stepping down as Chair of FRRA announced that she was running for council and the Fremantle Society President made it clear he thought she was a very good candidate”.


In her letter Claudia Green added:  “It is also, interesting that as the FS is also a Council Precinct and as such receives rate payer monies, that there is the capacity to discriminate against ratepayers, who put their hands up. Normally, Council Precincts, as a principle of equity, simply notify their members as to who is standing, rather than have a preference of ratepayers, without an apparent proper due process, equity or accountability and transparency”.


Precinct guidelines state: “City funds are for precinct purposes only and cannot be used for electioneering in local government elections.  The City acknowledges the role of the precincts in encouraging community interest in council elections.    The Local Government Act does not allow candidates to use council resources to assist in election activities. The City is also responsible for being objective, non-political and unbiased. As such, the City has specific guidelines relating to the use of City resources by precincts who wish to promote council elections”.

The guidelines do not appear to preclude precincts from using their own funds to support candidates.


Would Claudia Green have been better off not to have  relinquished FRRA? The organisation is not a precinct and it may have been possible for her to resign the chair and have the Association membership support her election campaign with no constraints related to council guidelines. She has not yet confirmed she will stand for council.

Roger Garwood : Editor :

0418 921 735 

Fremantle Society Reneges on Pledge to Support Election Candidate


John Dowson, President of the Fremantle Society, has blamed The  Society’s committee for a change in support related to a potential candidates for City Ward in forthcoming elections. He describes himself as ‘A servant to the committee’.

The Society have reneged on a promise to support Claudia Green, the founder and former chairperson of the Fremantle Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FRRA), in her campaign for a seat in City Ward at Fremantle’s October elections.

From February of this year Ms Green and John Dowson negotiated to amalgamate their respective organisations.

A Special General Meeting which included members of both organisations was held on April 27th. There was overwhelming support for the amalgamation.

The minutes of the meeting state:”John Dowson President of the Fremantle Society spoke to the group about the activity of the FS. He was sure that the merger would result in benefit to the community. He wished Claudia Green well and offered her support in her campaign for a seat in City Ward”.


Ms Green said: “In negotiations with John I am to be given a position on the committees of the amalgamated organisations and also be supported in my campaign for City Ward”.

Claudia Green is experienced in the processes under which governments and local governments have to operate. She is a critic of Fremantle Council’s apparent lack of correct process.

In 2012 she established FRRA, the ratepayers’ association, to gain support for and to represent Fremantle citizens.

A major exposé was made by FRRA, initially in WA Business News in 2014 and widely reported in the general media. Martin Lee, a financial analyst, had been alerted to the Council’s 2012 business plan for the development of King’s Square and new council offices. His analysis of the plan exposed  financial flaws in the council’s estimates which may result in a debt to ratepayers of between $30m and $50m .

Those figures were supported by the Fremantle Society. A financial analyst contracted by The Society concluded the City is ‘technically insolvent’.

Claudia Green resigned from the chair of the FRRA in order to run her election campaign for a City Ward seat. Her platform will include issues related to the King’s Square Business Plan.


Last week it was revealed that Dowson and the Fremantle  Society Committee had ignored the undertaking  made to Claudia Green, who has been a City Ward resident for 25 years,  and will instead support Catherine Hammond in Hilton and Mike Finn in City Ward.

Mike Finn is a resident of Cottesloe and proprietor of Kakulas’ Sister, a popular grocery store in Market Street.

The minutes of the special general meeting have been confirmed by FRRA secretary, Dr Elena Monaco, who said in an email to Fremantle Backchat:”With regard to the minutes of the FRRA meeting of 27 April, I took the minutes and they reflect what happened. John made his statement and those present took it at face value”.


Suzanne John, a long time resident of City Ward, was at the general meeting and agreed with the version of events which outlined John Dowson’s promise.

She said: “I am appalled by this”, explaining that she is not a member of the Fremantle Society. “We have little hope with this mysterious Mike Finn, I’m told he is a businessman. So is Nabor and look what happened there. No one had ever heard of him before the election, or for that matter, since!!!! I am supporting Claudia Green.”


The Fremantle Society has not made an official announcement related to support for Hammond and Finn. John Dowson was asked if the report of the broken undertaking was true. He was asked: “…a point which has emerged, related to the elections and City Ward in particular, is that the FS/FRRA plan to support Michael Finn (Kakulas’s Sister) as a City Ward candidate.

“Does it mean they may be supporting two candidates? The joint press release from FS & FRRA said the combined organisations would be supporting Claudia Green.

“The amalgamation was given as her reason for letting go of FRRA, to give her the time and space to run a campaign. Could you clarify that situation?”

A copy of the relevant minute, related to Dowson’s undertaking of support for Green was attached with the question.

Mr Dowson replied:”There is a surfeit of good talent having Claudia and Mike running but there is a lot going on behind the scenes. The FS committee is fortunate in having two members of its committee running and the committee has voted to endorse and support Catherine Hammond for Hilton and Mike Finn for City. I am obviously a servant of the committee.”


Mr Dowson was also asked: “One point made is that you approached Mike Finn to sit on the FS committee. Is that accurate or did he approach you?”

He replied: “Not sure [of] the relevance of what might have happened months ago.”

The relevance is that if Dowson approached Finn (or vice versa) ‘months ago’ that approach may predate the negotiations held with Green in relation to an amalgamation. The FS President may already have made a commitment to Finn to support him in his run for a seat in City Ward. If that is the case the commitment by Dowson to include Green on the committee of the combined organisation, as well as his statement of support at the special meeting only a month ago, may have been misleading.


The Fremantle Society President is reported to have left Australia for two months travel. Vice President Robert Bodkin has been asked, in Mr Dowson’s absence: “John Dowson has described himself as a ‘slave of his committee’. Would that be an accurate description and does it reflect the meeting at which the decision to support Finn was made? Who proposed and seconded Finn? Who asked Finn to join the FS committee? He was not elected.

At the time of publishing no answer had been received.

SUSTAINABILITY: The Buzzword which led Fremantle Nowhere.



Fremantle’s current council were voted in on promises delivered by a mantra – Sustainability. But what progress has been made on the back of the buzz? Very little.

NOT PARIS. A neglected building in the heart of Fremantle's West End. Rumour is that this may become a victim of demolition and increased height. A chance for councillors to consider their obligations to voters, not to developers. ©Roger Garwood 2016
A neglected building in the heart of Fremantle’s West End. Rumour is that this  building may become a victim of demolition and increased height. A chance for councillors to consider their obligations to voters, not to developers. 
©Roger Garwood 2016

Councillors  Mute in the Face of Developers

Now, with time running out on several plans, notably the King’s Square development, a new buzzword is worming around the West End – Demolition – and not a single councillor has actively promoted the notion of conservation and restoration and been courageous enough to condemn the plan to demolish 75 High Street. Forgive me if they have but it would be very useful for the public to become  aware of any such notions by their elected members.

Gobbledgook from the Green’s Corner

We have been blessed with Councillor Sullivan’s obfuscation in relation to the recent application for demolition of 75 High Street. Sullivan is a master of discombobulation, leaving readers and listeners wondering what he actually stands for. Interestingly he lists among his architectural achievements his involvement with the Leighton Beach and the Northshore developments. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is up to individuals to judge those developments. Apart from Sullivan there appear to be no councillors with architectural experience.

Spongy Economics of King’s Square 

If we are to apply demolition tactics to old and singularly unattractive buildings we should look closely at the spongy economics of the King’s Square plan. An obvious option would be to give Fremantle a truly attractive town centre by demolishing the Myer building and the carpark at the rear as well as Queensgate. This area could then become an attractive central park which showcases the Town Hall and St. Patrick’s Church. It would have on one boundary a row of beautifully renovated cottages.   New council administration offices could be built on the Spicer’s site, overlooking the city square and accommodating a library above ground. (The current plan calls for an underground library). That is obviously not going to happen but it may be the best and most economical option for the city in the long run.

One of a number of Parisian shop fronts photographed by Lidia D'Opera. They display a stylish, appealing, shabby chic. A concept which could easily be emulated in Fremantle's West End. © Lidia D'Opera 2016
One of a number of Parisian shop fronts photographed by Lidia D’Opera. They display a stylish, appealing, shabby chic. A concept which could easily be emulated in Fremantle’s West End.
© Lidia D’Opera 2016

Is Conservation Uneconomical? That suppositon is easily disproved

Fremantle’s historic architecture is sustainable. Should the buzzword now be ‘conservation’ which, by its nature, encompasses ‘sustainable’? Critics have said restoration is uneconomical and that people don’t like working in old buildings.

The University of Notre Dame has restored a large part of the West End enclave. Their architect, the late Marcus Collins, successfully designed and directed the renovation of properties while maintaining the architectural integrity and character of the West End and he was able to work within what he described as a limited budget.

It's not difficult to find style, nor follow ethnic backgrounds. In that respect Fremantle has many options. The city has a number of strong ethnic communities who could help promote a colourful cross cultural background. © Lidia D'Opera 2016
It’s not difficult to find style, nor follow ethnic backgrounds in Paris or other major cities in Europe.  In that respect Fremantle has many options. The city has a number of strong ethnic communities who could help promote a colourful cross cultural background.
© Lidia D’Opera 2016

The success of the university in attracting students and staff to work and study in the enclave is patently obvious. Logic demonstrates that stylish, high quality, renovation of properties can be accomplished and make economical sense. Notre Dame have also demonstrated that it is not necessary to increase height. Interestingly so have Match with their east end redevelopment of the old wool stores. In spite of council approving a height increase on the building Match went back to their figures and decided it was more profitable not to increase the building’s height.

World Class Restoration Succeeds: Fremantle needs Civic Pride

The use of colour on shopfronts, and maybe the reconstruction of original shop fronts in the West End, is not beyond the realms of possibility. Conciencious developers and property managers should consider a range of options. © Lidia D'Opera 2016

More use of colour on shopfronts, possibly heritage colour options, and maybe the reconstruction of original shop fronts in the West End is not beyond the realms of possibility. Conciencious developers and property managers should consider a range of options. 
© Lidia D’Opera 2016

Recent world class restorations in Fremantle include The National Hotel, The Federal Hotel with the Warders’ Cottages nearing completion. Shortly the renovated Norwegian Consular Office on the corner of Cliff and Phillimore Streets will be unveiled. These are examples council should be noting and learning from. They should not bow  to pressure from property owners wishing to demolish and rebuild with added height using the developers mantra- ‘It’s the only way to make it economical’

Fremantle needs imagination, cultural nous and civic pride to be demonstrated and promoted by councillors, developers and architects.

Cities such as Paris take an enormous pride in conserving their precincts. So does Napier in NZ where a small group of people, within a relatively short period of time, turned their city’s fortunes around by promoting its architecture. <;

Note: Many thanks to my colleague Lidia D’Opera for the use of her pictures. Her web site is at <; and is well worth exploring.

A perfect example of conservation in the West End which contains the diverse social and cultural requirements of a city. © Roger Garwood 2016
Perfect examples of conservation in Fremantle’s West End,  containing the diverse social and cultural requirements of a city.
© Roger Garwood 2016