A Tale of Two Cities

May 8, 2013 § 3 Comments

Napier NZ  v  Fremantle WA

Should Napier’s Financial Recovery be Studied as a Template for Fremantle’s Future?

Visiting Napier in New Zealand is a revealing and somewhat elevating experience. It is worth comparing Napier to Fremantle.

Situated in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of North Island, Napier is as remote a place as you could wish to find. About 30 years ago the city was staring in the teeth of financial ruin and only had a couple of claims to fame. It is one of the first places in the world to see the light of a new day and the original city was wiped out by an earthquake early in 1931. Following the earthquake a firestorm incinerated those buildings left standing apart from a small group of wooden houses on the beach front. They are still there.

Apart from making headlines following the earthquake the city may have remained unnoticed to this day –  isolated in one of the most remote countries in the world.

Napier - Art Deco detail as far as they eye can see. © Roger Garwood 2013

Napier – Art Deco detail as far as the eye can see.
© Roger Garwood 2013

In the aftermath of the earthquake Napier went through a total rebuild.  Four architectural firms co-operated and redesigned the city at the height of the Art Deco era. Using a combination of inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright , Maori motifs and  influences of the Spanish Mission style the city was totally rebuilt within two years.

In 1985, with financial gloom on the horizon, Napier needed a wake up call and it came when a small group of concerned residents saw potential for tourism.  An Art Deco Trust was established to underpin what is now one of New Zealand’s major industries, tourism.The Trust had recognised the city’s architecture could become the cornerstone of  financial revival. They were right.

Napier: Riding on the back of an Art Deco Wave are Astronomic Tourist Figures

Napier is now recognised as the worlds best preserved enclave of Art Deco architecture. That may be stretching a point as Miami in Florida could possibly lay the same claim. Nevertheless the Art Deco society promoted the city as such. Tourism statistics are now astronomic. In a recent 12 months period over 75 cruise liners visited the city, each packed to the gunnels with close to 2000 visitors. In addition the city hosted 1,600,000 tourists and of those over 600,000 stayed in hotels or other accommodation for one night or more.

In a recent broadcast of  ABC Radio’s Correspondents’ Report Dominique Schwartz interviewed Napier’s mayor, Barbara Arnott, who was expounding the virtues of Napier’s architectural trove.  ” … [tourism] generated fifteen million dollars just this weekend, but this weekend is the tip of the iceberg. We have Art Deco 365 days a year. And for Napier it is our point of difference”.

Napier, promoting itself as the world's Art Deco capital, attracts in excess of two million visitors a year.  This is the entrance to the Tobacco Company office © Roger Garwood 2013

Napier, promoting itself as the world’s Art Deco capital, attracts in excess of two million visitors a year. This is the entrance to the Tobacco Company office
© Roger Garwood 2013

The mayor continued: “It’s huge, not just for Napier but for the whole of Hawke’s Bay. Our accommodation is booked out, usually a year ahead, throughout the whole of Hawke’s Bay.”

Thus, riding on the back of its architecture, Napier performed a financial miracle. The town looks prosperous.  Comfortable street furniture situated in bright and airy pedestrian malls is placed under shady trees. The malls and streets meander though an Art Deco time warp and host  high quality shops which range from clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants, antique shops and general stores. It seems that flowers are everywhere and Art Deco sunrise motifs  rise from many building. Waterfront cafes are blooming and booming but principally this is a city of people who picked up a simple  idea, planned it thoroughly and used it to propel them into a secure financial future.

And here’s the rub. Fremantle’s gold rush architecture leaves Napier for dead.

High Street,  Fremantle. The world's finest example of gold rush architecture. © Roger Garwood 2013

High Street, Fremantle. The world’s finest example of gold rush architecture.
© Roger Garwood 2013

Fremantle: Riding on the Back of a Coffee Bean

In 1985, at the time when Napier woke up to its major asset, Fremantle was cresting the wave of America’s Cup fever. The city got a coat of paint and hosted about 40,000 visitors for close to three years. And then, with little more than a puff of wind, Fremantle fell off that wave and is now experiencing what may become the worst financial downturn in the city’s history.

The old adage is ‘When the going gets tough the tough get going”. And the tough did get going in Napier.

The problems with Fremantle have been well documented. The city is looking shabby, it has problems with social behaviour and violence, its service industry is second-rate. Shops are closing, rents are higher than anywhere in the world and days when Fremantle can ride on the back of a coffee bean are rapidly coming to an end.

South Terrace. Fremantle's economy rides  on the back of a coffee bean.  © Roger Garwood 2013

South Terrace. Fremantle’s economy rides on the back of a coffee bean.
© Roger Garwood 2013

Revival urgently needs kick starting with lateral thinking. What is wrong with The Fremantle Society  encompassing the potential of tourism? The combination of gold rush architecture and Fremantle’s overall history, marketed well,  would be a giant tourist magnet. Backed by BID, The Chamber of Commerce, WA Tourism Commission and Ficra as well as the City Council, all pulling in the same direction, it would be possible to turn the city’s current economy around in a short space of time.

Any one of Fremantle’s disparate groups could become the figurehead for a tourist led recovery. The Fremantle Society previously saved the city from structural disasters. It has the ability to follow that success through by utilising in-depth knowledge of the city’s architectural ancestry. Linking Fremantle’s potential with Kalgoorlie’s tourism promoters would be  feasible. The cities share a common historical foundation in a deep-rooted gold rush history and are linked by the umbilical cord of a railway line. The romance of gold, history and architecture – the finest of its genre in the world – could be marketed with a little imagination and a few people pooling common interests.

Send in a Gunboat – or a Delegation

The city’s principal asset is iconic West End architecture. Partly a result of the Fremantle Society’s past efforts it is the world’s best preserved 19th century port. With careful management and a touch of civic pride it can attract many more visitors from overseas. At present the economy will not turn around without more people visiting and spending  money in a revitalised city.

A starting point could be to send a delegation to Napier from The Fremantle Society, Fremantle City  Council, The WA Department for Tourism, BID and The Chamber of Commerce to speak with the groups who have made tourism work so well for them.

Market Street. Iconic buildlngs on every corner. © Roger Garwood 2103

Market Street. Fremantle has iconic buildings on every corner.
© Roger Garwood 2103

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Anzac Day, Fremantle

April 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Mums, Dads, Diggers, Kids, and Memories

Anzac Day in Fremantle is always a little less precise  on  military precision but full of camaraderie. Poignant moments sometimes give way to gentle humour.

Here are a few photographs from yesterday’s Esplanade assembly point.

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Finally a favourite from 2011. An old digger (sailor actually) was wheeled onto the parade ground but before he took his place in the parade he whipped out a hip flask and took a slug. The last picture was taken in 1977 in Perth. The parade was over and this old fellow walked over to what may have been his old regimental flags, took off his hat and stood silently, looking at them for a few minutes….

Anzac Day, Fremantle

Anzac Day Perth E 1977 CORR

Dymocks Bookstore to Close

April 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

Lights Out For Dymocks -High Rents and Antisocial Behaviour  Force Closure

Dymocks Bookshop in Fremantle’s High street Mall is to close in mid-May as a result of high rents and anti social behaviour.

Clive Klikker, the manager of the family owned business said: “We pay $250,000 rent here while we know stores close by, in the High Street, pay around $100,000. We have tried to negotiate with the owners, the Manning Trust, but they will not listen”.

Mr Klikker went on to explain the decision is the result of several issues: “We’ve had a spate of antisocial behaviour. I had a can of Jim Beam and Coke thrown over me about two weeks ago and last week somebody tried to destroy our counter. He came in asking for scissors but I wouldn’t let him have them, his behaviour indicated that may not have been wise. He then proceeded to try to wreck the counter. The police simply said ‘Oh, he’s harmless, he probably wanted them to cut his guitar strings’.

“We do see a bright future for the city but not for ten years or so, when we have more people living here, when council’s development plans begin to work. The mall is a conduit for people but we have seen Queen Victoria Street refurbished, where there is virtually no pedestrian traffic, and nothing has been done here.

“I regret having to do this, we do have a viable business but with these high rents it has become impossible …  and we’ve been here for ten years. The shop was here for several years before we took over and we know so many of our customers personally, we’re friends, but we cannot be viable with rents this high”.

Clive Klikker explained that he and other mall traders have repeatedly asked for the area to be upgraded with better street furniture and lighting but to no avail. In the absence of effective policing High Street Mall traders recently employed a small team of security guards to combat anti-social behaviour in the area.

New York Cheaper

Anecdotal evidence indicates that rents in Fremantle are higher than in high-profile shopping areas in New York.

Perth/Fremantle is the fourth most expensive city in the world according to Numbeo.com  -well above New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore. Oslo tops the list.

NOTE: John Dowson Comments

Since this story was posted former Deputy Mayor John Dowson has added additional  information relayed to him by the owners of Dymocks. Scroll to the comments below.

Fremantle Hospital

April 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

Ramped Up With Nowhere To Go.

My family had a virtual season ticket to Fremantle Hospital’s emergency ward. There were times when we felt we should have an apartment there, it may have been cheaper all round. We’ve had broken bones fixed; more stitches than a Chinese sweatshop could produce; cat bites treated and holes in the head patched up more than once. I doubt many people within striking distance of Freo’s hospital can be too critical of the service they have received. I can even remember the hospital being built. That would have been back in the mid 1970s and I can forgive it for being ugly with it’s overpowering neo-communist functional architecture.

A Shout Which Couldn’t Be Ignored

A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and that link almost broke this week. In fact it may still prove to do so. A friend, I’ll call her Jane Doe for the sake of this article, had been helping my neighbour with some light decorating work, nothing at all strenuous. I was enjoying a quiet gin and tonic on my verandah when my neighbour shouted out in a voice bordering on panic: “Rog, get down here fast, really fast, quick” It was a tone which couldn’t be ignored.

I ran to her house. Jane had collapsed and was unconscious in the garden. Anne my neighbour (not her real name) quickly explained that Jane, who had been sitting chatting, had suddenly complained of a severe headache, looked at Anne, vomitted  and fallen unconscious out of the chair in a matter of a second or so (nothing to do with Anne’s looks, she doesn’t frighten people that much).  I asked Anne to call an ambulance, tell them it was very urgent. I had checked Jane’s pulse which was very strong and fast and I didn’t suspect a heart attack.

There’s no point in going into finite detail but this was obviously a life threatening situation.

The ambulance arrived within a short time and Jane had recovered some degree of consciousness but could not talk. A paramedic got to work, asked Anne and me some questions which we answered in detail with other information about how this had occurred. The medic said she felt Jane was dehydrated. Without any real medical experience between us we were not going to argue. However, we both felt that was a diagnosis which was way off beam. Jane was treated for about 30 minutes and then taken to the hospital.

Five Hour Wait For Diagnosis

This is where the system started to unravel. It was Monday 8th and by now around 6 o’clock. The ambulance was ramped for at least two hours as emergency was busy, treating cases on a priority rating. Jane was placed in a corridor for three hours and when a doctor finally diagnosed her it was to say there was a suspected aneurism – a life threatening condition. She was quickly sent to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s world-class neurological department and immediately  operated on to relieve pressure on the brain and drain the cranial cavity of blood. The following day she had a five hour operation to place a stent.

The current situation is there has been an additional five hour operation and Jane is still in danger of not recovering.

Keep The Emergency Ward, Keep the Hospital, No More Ramping.

My argument, and I don’t think too many people will disagree, follows. It is not meant to be critical of the ambulance service or of the paramedic. A paramedic is not necessarily a doctor and they are well trained to deal with emergency situations. However, on this occasion Anne and I didn’t feel the paramedic had listened closely enough to our description of the incident.

However, as result it is likely the ambulance was ramped and Jane, who would have been reported as being dehydrated, would not have been considered the highest level of emergency. It took five hours for the critical nature of the patient to be realised.

The question of ramping at an overcrowd hospital has to be considered as a really weak link in an otherwise excellent statewide service. In this case it could yet cost a life or severe brain damage as a result of the delay.

Thus our new state member of parliament and Fremantle’s council must ensure Fremantle’s emergency ward remains open, ramping must stop and  consideration should be given to additional training for paramedics.

Fiona Stanley Hospital will open shortly. Two emergency facilities should be retained … in fact Fremantle Hospital, the medical heart of the city, must be kept pumping.

We live in one of the wealthiest states in the world (if we’re to believe what we’re told). Thus we should be able to maintain a fine medical service for the public.

 

Fire, Brimstone and Fig Jam Face Packs

March 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

Dive for Cover – Fremantle’s Street Arts Festival had it all and more.

Easter Weekend showed the best face of the city to the outside world. Streets were packed; the fragrance of hot dogs blended beautifully with the unmistakable scent of a sheep ship in the harbour as tens of thousands of people happily rubbed shoulders and soaked up world class entertainment on their doorstep.

Even a handful of councillors were allowed out alone for this festival, all with smiles. And so they should have for they were strolling around and seeing first hand what people really enjoy. The seedy shadow of the city was well out of sight.

A warning from the Easter Bunny

A few people had experiences which turned their negative impression of the city around. One happy car parker had not purchased a ticket from a meter and the Easter Bunny gave him a parking infringement notice with a zero to pay note and a friendly reminder not to do it again.

Many buskers were armed with  their favourite weapons – flaming torches chucked around with gay abandon in a practice called juggling.  It’s designed to instil fear into the unwary. The city’s own favourite, the bagpiper from hell, was frightening every living creature within earshot. You can understood why the Scots let pipers lead them into battle, only to find the enemy had scarpered in terror. But no, the world’s only ‘Flame-throwing Punk Rock Piper’, as he bills himself, rapped it out to a massive crowd. I hope he and his somewhat less intimidating and infinitely more attractive fishnet clad partner made a healthy quid in face of the overseas competition.

The World's only Punk Rock Flame Throwing Piper © Rober Garwood 2013

The World’s only Punk Rock Flame Throwing Piper
© Roger Garwood 2013

Whispers Wine Bar in the Essex Street was comfortably full (the customers were not). A group of the city’s musicians, guitars in one hand, glass of red in the other, settled in the small upstairs room and started a small jam session, adding a musical moment

Jamming at Whisper's Wine Bar in Essex Street.© Roger Garwood 2013

Jamming at Whisper’s Wine Bar in Essex Street.
© Roger Garwood 2013

The only train was full of bunnies

In the High Street Mall, not letting the true Easter message be forgotten, a group of Roman soldiers in red cloaks were in the process of torturing a volunteer ‘Jesus’ to death on a large wooden cross. They were not in the least bit phased by a large electric train, loaded up with kids and colourful Easter Bunnies, as it roared at something less speedy than a bullet train, weaving through the crowds and baffling a couple of greyhounds which had to be restrained. There would have been carnage in the carriages had they been let loose.

The only train running over Easter weekend.© Roger Garwood 2013

The only train running over Easter weekend.
© Roger Garwood 2013

For reasons which escape people who should know better Easter Weekend is probably the busiest in the year for Fremantle. So why on earth is the rail line closed? It can’t possibly help. This happens with monotonous regularity and the city, with its attendant parking problems, must feel a financial squeeze as a result. We can only conclude The Department of Transport may be few bunnies short of a full burrow.

And so it went on. It was a weekend of buskers, beer, champagne, high spirits and happy faces. The Buskers’ Festival, as it is commonly known, has become a legendary gathering spot for street artists from around the world. They love it and they help to endorse Fremantle’s reputation as the City of Festivals. The entire weekend’s entertainment was held against the backdrop of the West End’s architecture, underlining it’s value as a historical enclave. And yes, in case you were wondering, one of the stalls in Market Street was offering Fig Jam Face Packs. Yukky poo!

Busking against the backdrop of Fremantle's history.© Roger Garwood 2013

Busking against the backdrop of Fremantle’s history.
© Roger Garwood 2013

Welcome to Backchat – The Forum for Fremantle

March 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Fremantle BackChat is designed to facilitate discussions which relate to Fremantle. Space is available to anybody who wishes to make comments and Fremantle Backchat  will allow debates to continue for as long as necessary.

Fremantle is facing changes, notably those which surround the development of the East End and the CBD. It is anticipated that Fremantle BackChat will encourage people to voice their opinions on any issue of interest.

Comments will only be published if  full names of contributors are available together with an email address. Email addresses will not be published but names will only be withheld  if contributors have valid reasons.

Information and articles can be emailed  to: editor@fremantle-online.com.au

Comments may be emailed or made in the section below each article.

Welcome to Fremantle BackChat

Roger Garwood
BackChat
T: 0418 921 735
E: editor@fremantle-online.com.au
 
March 2013

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