Perth foreshore development could wreck city’s greatest asset

June 14, 2012

Hundreds of people rallied outside the Western Australia parliament on June 13 to protest the planned redevelopment of Perth’s foreshore. The protest was organised by the City Gatekeepers. A speech given at the rally by campaigner Ken Eastwood appears below.

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The Colin Barnett government’s decision to divert thousands of vehicles into our already overstressed road systems defies belief.

More staggering is the plan to spend, in 2009 dollar terms, $440 million [on the foreshore development] — now equivalent to $509 million of our money.

Close to the same amount will need to be found for the inevitable blowouts in building on reclaimed ground. Roadworks in and around the CBD, Graham Farmer Freeway, Thomas Street and Mitchell Freeway, will be at least another $200 million.

The yield from the sale of nine premium CBD sites carved out of public land on the Esplanade will be just $170 million.

This amounts to an average return of less than $19 million per site. Informed comment would suggest that these sites would have to be worth at least $50 to $60 million each, or three times the projected recovery. Who will be the lucky developers who acquire such incredibly valuable land at these bargain-basement prices?

When premier Barnett took over the reins in 2008, the net state debt was $3.6 billion. Today it is $16.5 billion. This is an increase of 460% in just three years.

The net debt is forecast to rise to $23.9 billion by 2014-15. This will mean an increase in state debt over five years from about $2100 per head of population to over $9000 per head of population. Such an increase will have occurred during the most profitable five years of the state’s history.

Is it any wonder that our public utility charges are increasing at such an alarming rate?

At this rate the state’s AAA credit rating will be sorely tested and the loss of that coveted rating will mean even more pain for taxpayers.

This is exactly the situation that occurred in South Australia just two weeks ago with a downgrade of that state’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.

The net effect of the loss of such a cushion against the cost of our borrowings will be an increase in the rate of interest for all state borrowings.

Expect rises in the costs of power, water, electricity, health care, road construction and so on.

The task has become even more difficult now that Barnett has lost the services of the Treasurer, Christian Porter, the leading light in his state cabinet.

With the imminent projected reduction of $600 million in the state’s share of GST revenue is this really the time for our state government to be spending upwards of $1 billion on a project which will yield no obvious social, cultural, environmental or commercial benefit to our city?

Bear in mind that this government is spending this huge amount of money instead of honouring important election promises, such as redevelopment and construction of the proposed west wing of Royal Perth Hospital. The government can’t afford to honour that particular promise.

Surely there must be a public outcry at such destruction of our city’s greatest asset?

There must be a better plan for our city. It’s not too late to stop this poorly thought out destruction of Perth’s waterfront — our city’s greatest asset.

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