Don&#146t privatise Freo&#146s beaches!


Two protests in one week have demanded that government plans for the development of South and Bathers beaches in Fremantle be canned.

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) in WA has put forward three options, known as the "Three Harbours Policy". However, their "consultative process" is flawed — there is no option to retain the much-loved beaches in their current state.

The proposed mega development would extend 1.66 kilometres into the ocean, from Bathers to South Beach, and feature a boat launching facility, a massive expansion of mooring and storage facilities for an extra 2700 vessels — 1000 of which would be stacked 12 metres high in a multi-story "boat-park". It would also see tracts of ocean floor filled to build hotels, shops and luxury housing.

On January 16, 400 people met at Fremantle Town Hall to protest the proposal. Just days later, on January 20, a further 2500 people attended a "Save Our Sunsets" concert at South Beach, which was addressed by Greens Senator-elect Scott Ludlam and featured a surprise performance by John Butler. These actions are the start of a campaign organised by the newly formed Save Freo Beaches Alliance (SFBA).

Michael Martin, convenor of the new alliance, described it as "the fastest growing group in Fremantle". The alliance, established on January 2 at a meeting of 120 people, immediately sprang into action producing petitions, submissions and stickers, publicising events and seeking allies.

The alliance rejects the DPI assertion that this development is necessary to meet the increased need posed by the growth of commercial and recreational boating, asserting that the real motivation is serving the interests of the big developers who will profit from turning the ocean floor into commercial and residential development.

The public health and environmental impacts will be immense. A threefold increase in boat storage and the building of a launching ramp will result in adjacent swimming zones being polluted with fuel and human sewage. Toxic marine sediments will be stirred up by dredging, posing disruption to the regulatory functions in fish and damage to the central nervous and reproductive systems in mammals.

Dredging will remove seagrass and associated invertebrate fauna, further damaging biodiversity.

The "three harbours policy" follows the WA Labor government's approval of two other controversial foreshore developments in the area, the Port Coogee Marina and the Stockland housing project on the dunes of South Beach. In both cases Alannah McTiernan, the minister for planning and infrastructure, has ignored the government's own coastal planning policy for the benefit of private developers.

The Fremantle Socialist Alliance convener, Sam Wainwright, told Green Left Weekly, "McTiernan and the Labor government are behaving like the old Queensland National Party white shoe brigade. The developers flash the cash and the government does what it's told".

He continued, "There's an important principle at stake, the beaches and foreshore are public space and we can not let that be privatised. Furthermore these so-called community consultation processes are a sham. We need community control, not token consultation."

At the January 2 meeting, many locals raised concerns about the inevitable decline of social amenities should the development go ahead: restriction on swimming, reduced access for people walking dogs, and traffic congestion.

The SFBA is urging people to get involved, join the protests and spread the word. Online submissions are available from the alliance's website at <> and must be returned to the DPI by 5pm, February 1.