The other day I was perusing the Fremantle Economic Development Strategy 2015 - 2020, and I must say, I got excited. There was a lot in there about place management and activation, attracting businesses that add value to Fremantle’s offering as a visitor destination, and adding layers of authenticity that will increase the length and quality of visitors’ stays. It sounded like Freo was really going to go places.
But somewhere along the line Freo lost its way. Although the Strategy emphasises the need to develop and encourage knowledge based, creative and innovative industries, in the last few years we’ve seen an exodus of these kinds of organisations, including Beaconsfield Challenger TAFE.
Yes, the Kings Square development finally looks like getting started, but when it is completed after years of disruption, its biggest tenant will be the Department of Housing. The Department and its workers will be very welcome, but they are not going to lift our ranking in the Knowledge City Index, recently launched by the University of Canberra. The Index notes that Knowledge Cities have several characteristics, including diverse knowledge industries, key knowledge-producing infrastructure such as universities and science parks, and a quality of life that enhances the city’s social and cultural milieu.
Nor will a government department enhance our ‘Bohemian Index'. According to the inventor of the Index, Richard Florida, a greater concentration of artists, technology workers, artists, musicians, and gays creates a dynamic that enhances economic development.
My plan is to encourage the growth of knowledge based, creative and innovative industries, by utilising the city’s own extensive property portfolio to attract them, and identifying and bringing together the investors, business owners and property owners who can get that creative, innovative dynamic moving.
We currently have 3 TAFE campuses, Lance Holt, John Curtin Senior High School, our local primary schools, and Fremantle College coming online in 2018, and of course Notre dame University, the core of our current knowledge hub.
Combine this with the very many creative, professional and research industries that operate within Freo and are drawn to a knowledge hub, and we have a powerful force for the rejuvenation and revitalisation of our city.
Beyond the knowledge hub, by creating the kind of infrastructure that facilitates more culturally based retail and entertainment, and allows more diversity in residents and businesses, we can generate the conditions that will lead to a transformation of our city.
I am sure I will be criticised for in some respects reactivating a plan endorsed by the incumbent Mayor of Fremantle – the kind of Fremantle that the 2015 Strategy envisioned, but seems to have abandoned. But I am not here to create change for change’s sake: I am here to get Freo moving again.
In every way, I am keen to help create genuinely world class experiences for visitors, starting with an immersive Indigenous cultural centre, and I will be working towards bringing international events to our city. I am also keen to cut the kind of red tape and regulatory gridlock that saw a Bon Scott statue erected on Department of Transport land because the City of Fremantle couldn’t agree on where it should be placed.
It’s an ambitious program, but it is also limited in its scope: to Fremantle - and that’s the main focus of all my thinking.