Rarely a Dull Moment – Groundhog Day: Trees, Change Rooms, Tourist Buses, Homelessness

Welcome back to our regular feature, Rarely a dull moment with Gayle O’Leary, where we report on the highlights of Council’s regular, now fortnightly, meetings. We would have titled the feature Never a dull moment, but didn’t want to over-promise! If you’d like to catch up on our earlier reports, look here.

It was a bit of a Groundhog Day agenda, folks, the agenda for the OCM – the Ordinary Council Meeting – of Freo Council for last Wednesday 24 April, where we got to see some old chestnuts all over again.


Or – Who Still Gives a Fig?

Our favourite chestnut – oops, fig tree – is back again. Is that three or four Council appearances now?

Moreton Bay Fig tree at 195 High Street, Fremantle. Credit Fremantle Shipping News

On Wednesday night, the Council finally resolved that:

1. Notes that the following trees that were formerly included in the Heritage List are considered to have significance as contained in the Register of Significant Trees and Vegetation Areas provided in Appendix B of LPP2.23:
a. Tree, 11 Harvest Road, North Fremantle
b. Trees, 15 Harvest Road, North Fremantle
c. Tree Grove, 21 Harvest Road, North Fremantle
d. Trees, 45 Henderson Street, Fremantle
e. Moreton Bay Fig, 195 High Street, Fremantle
2. Agrees to undertake the process under Local Planning Scheme No.4 with respect to including the trees listed in Part 1 on the Register of Significant Trees and give due regard to LPP2.23, to allow consideration to be given to whether the trees should remain on the Register.

This resolution was primarily drafted by the City’s solicitors who recommended that the City thoroughly redo the process. Cr Carmada successfully moved for a slight tweak to the first motion, requesting that the process be undertaken with consideration of the existing tree protection policy.

Ever since the 24 February 2024 decision of Council to reinstate the Moreton Bay Fig Tree behind Coccolico at 195 High Street, Fremantle, on the Significant Tree Register after earlier voting to allow its removal, there have been questions about process and whether the City had the right to transfer trees from the Heritage List to the Significant Tree Register automatically during 2018-2019 when the policy was still in draft form until 26 September 2018.

After months of debate, outcry, and objections from the Catalini family (owners of 195 High Street), the City has made the hard decision to redo the process from scratch for all the Significant Trees on the Significant Tree Register.

The report behind this latest decision says –

The City has since investigated this matter and reviewed the original process that was undertaken in 2018-19. The review concluded that the City may not have undertaken all administrative processes in this instance and as a result, this report recommends that the City undertake the process again.

At Wednesday’s OCM the Chief Executive Officer advised the City was unable to demonstrate that occupiers had been notified and would investigate further, as required.

The City decided all “relevant persons” will now be consulted and encouraged to comment on the tree registrations. The trees will still be required to be protected during this process. Once complete, the trees will be brought back to Council for final consideration.

The matter provoked a robust discussion at Public Question time at the meeting and during deliberation on the item itself by community members and councillors alike. There appears to be consensus that “everyone wants a Significant Tree Register but it has to be done right”, and while it is normal and only human to make mistakes, what truly matters is how those mistakes are acknowledged.

It’s important to remember that no additional trees have been added to the register in five years except for one landowner nomination for a lemon-scented gum tree. One wonders how many of the current trees will remain once this process of consultation is complete, which would be a disappointing turn of events for one of the first local governments to establish a Significant Tree Register. Either way, councillors agreed that: the current cultural heritage framework is insufficient for protecting trees; the issue of growing and protecting canopy cover requires a holistic approach; and the tree protection policy is long overdue for a revamp.

Cr Sullivan astutely stated that existing Council powers to protect trees and canopy are weak and local government needs support from State legislation to do more.

Mayor Fitzhardinge expressed her regret for the toll the tree issue has clearly taken on the Catalini family and that the process hasn’t been as clear for them or for Council and staff as it should have been. She reiterated that existing heritage legislation is insufficient to protect trees. The Mayor added that every time she visits NSW, she is blown away by the amount of development underway there while at the same time the clear requirement for development approval to be sought before any trees are removed on private property is also long standing.



But it’s good news!

The design and landscape plans for the South Beach Change Facility are ready.

File image of community meeting at South Beach with Café and demolished old changrooms in the background. Credit Fremantle Shipping News

Council were invited to endorse them at the OCM on 24 April and voted to:

1. Adopt the South Beach Change Facilities Precinct Design Development, as provided in Attachment 1.
2. Approve to progress with the detailed design and tender of the landscape and civil integration works, noting:
a. The tender will be structured to allow the works to be awarded in full or in part depending on value and the available budget.
b. Should the civil and landscape works need to be staged to manage budget, prioritisation will be placed on the accessibility components to ensure the landscape supports the change facility, and access to the beach and broader precinct.  
c. The construction will be sequenced with the South Beach Change Facility program to align completion as close as practically feasible.
3. Request that officers consider inclusion of the following items through the design development phase of the Landscape Package works, subject to budget allocation:
a. Adjusted footpath routes to ensure they suitably align with pedestrian desire lines, especially in respect to North – South movements and potential conflict points connecting higher flow / activity areas.
b. Improved infrastructure alignment and design levels to accommodate effective shower drainage and avoid sand accretion.  
4. Request that the following items be included as part of a capital works (South Beach Parking improvement works) proposal, for consideration as part of the 2024/25 budget process:
a. Cycling and pedestrian safety through improved alternative cycling routes.
b. Provision for improved bike parking.  
c. Car parking provision, including short stay and drop off facilities.  
5. Engage with the Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) to discuss improved rail crossing points to better connect Wilson Park to the foreshore reserve.

Landscaping features include native waterwise plantings and trees, local boulders, “natural limestone walls”, recycled timber, eco-concrete pathways, bike racks, seating, water fountains, social areas, footwash stations and external showers.

The design adopts a “pedestrian-first” approach by deterring cyclist speeding, encouraging active transport (including cycling), and supporting way-finding through protection of the existing Norfolk Island Pines and “simple pathway material changes”.

There will also be ACROD drop-off bays, DDA compliant access to the facility, and accessible ramps to the existing basketball court.

South Beach Changerooms and Cafe precinct. Source City of Fremantle

The City has also pleasingly committed to the purchase and installation of seasonal beach matting from the ramp to the beach, and is considering a more permanent solution such as a timber boardwalk over the dune.

Landscaping accounts for $604,000 out of the $3.8 million project budget, by the way. There’s a 10% contingency in place for it just in case things don’t go to plan, haha!

The design itself of the landscaping and change facility has been informed by extensive feedback with affected communities comprising:

• South Fremantle Precinct Group
• Fremantle Sailing Club
• South Beach Community Group
• Community members
• South Beach Café (Beachside)
• Access and Inclusion Working Group
• Walyalup Reconciliation Action Plan representatives
• Elected Members
• City Officers


One wonders if they all like the outcome? It’s been a long time coming, indeed.

Cr Sullivan noted that since he submitted his alternative recommendation (which introduced part 3, 4, and 5 in response to community wishes made directly to him and other members of Council), staff had prepared their own recommendation which essentially breaks it down more succinctly and introduces the wording “subject to consideration of budget allocation”.

Just to jog your memory, here is the total project budget adopted by Council in the 2023/24 annual budget:

The report item was split into two to allow consideration of 3(b) (the alternative recommendation to increase the size of the café alfresco area), which was lost.


Horizon West company has been recommended as the top pick to provide a new tourist bus service in Freo. They were also the only respondent.

At the OCM on 24 April, Council voted as follows –

1. Nominate Horizon West as the preferred supplier for the Tourist Bus expression of interest, subject to seeking further interest from the State Government in delivering a broader metropolitan-wide tourism related bus service that incorporates Fremantle.
2. Notes that the outcome of a further tender process will be brought back to Council for consideration.


It’s been nearly a year since the furore surrounding the City’s reluctant decision to nix the beloved Blue Cat bus service as State Government ceased funding support for the service.

The City at that time instructed its officers to initiate an Expression of Interest (EOI) selection process to investigate commercial opportunities for a “hop on hop off” bus service connecting patrons to key events and destinations around Fremantle.

The EOI opened from 9 August 2023 and was extended by two weeks to 3 October 2023.

The City investigated three models for the service (fully commercial, partially-funded, fully-funded). Financial support could be up to $200,000 annually. Important to note that the project will not start this financial year based on funding available.

Image of an existing Horizon West bus

The report on this item notes Horizon West’s core business model being in bus transport, and that they also hold the contract for the Fremantle Visitor Centre shuttle bus. Kelsian Group, who own Horizon West

, are descibed in their marketing materials as ‘Australia’s largest land and marine tourism and public transport service provider with established international operations. It is one of Australia’s most experienced and diverse multi-modal transport businesses, providing performance-driven capabilities across ferry, bus, and light rail operations.’

Their nominated route and operating schedule are –

The City will also seek interest from the State in delivering broad solutions across several destinations in Perth.

The councillors generally concurred in their concerns over the cost, and noted the unknowns in the detail yet to be provided, including about how the route was determined and whether efforts to seek funding from the State Government will be successful.

It was lamented that “Fremantle is a ghost town on Mondays and Tuesdays” but noted a tourism bus can only do so much on its own.

Current funding for cruise ship tourism buses from the Fremantle Visitor Centre amount to approximately $30,000 per annum, for reference. Tourism WA have recently provided up to $25,000 per annum, resulting in total local and State investment of $52,000 this financial year.


The old Captain Munchies business, now closed, operated in a structure leased from the Public Transit Authority. However, for some time now the location has been put to noble use through the Freo Street Kitchen providing help to those experiencing homelessness seven nights and two mornings a week.

The City of Fremantle also hold a lease from the PTA for the adjacent car parking area which has recently expired. The City is currently liaising with the PTA to negotiate a new lease and obtain permission to construct a shelter on the site.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the officer recommendation that –

supports the installation of a shelter structure, storage container and lighting enhancements in the Beach St car park in 2023/24 financial year.

Shelter site map. Source City of Fremantle

The background to the shelter proposal is to be found in a Council Officer’s report that advises –

St Pat’s Community Support Service are currently in the early stages of planning a redevelopment of their centre, which will incorporate facilities that the charity meal providers can use. However as these plans will not be completed for a number of years, the shelter can provide an interim measure to accommodate charity providers in their existing location. The shelter can also be used by skate ramp users and other community members.

The total cost associated with establishing the car park shelter is projected to be $40,000.

Since 2010, mobile charity services have become increasingly common in Fremantle. They typically provide food services but can also include showers and clothes washing such as that provided by Orange Sky Laundry, free haircuts by Short Back and Sidewalks (much kudos to its Glaswegian creator and Australian of the Year 2023, Craig Hollywood), and even places to sleep by Sleepbus Australia.

Six different groups provide meals at the Beach Street Carpark, and Orange Sky Laundry also attends to offer relief three times a week.

The City report notes there is currently no shelter offered onsite from the elements for volunteers and those in need at the car park. To mitigate this, the City has been requested to provide a shelter structure, lighting, and storage for meal services.

The City did explore other potential options during the colder months, including nearby Sunshine Harvester Works, sporting clubs, and City facilities, but ultimately found that the operating hours were incompatible.

Thanks for bearing with me on a big agenda, Shipees.

I do recommend watching the livestream if you find yourself with an extra few hours on meeting evening. Invite some friends around to join you! A dry ginger ale is probably a good accompanying beverage. After all, there’s rarely a dull moment …

May you always have a safe and warm place to enjoy a nice meal in good company. Ideally on a comfy bench at South Beach under a protected leafy tree.

Did you know the Fremantle Library was the first public library funded by a local government in Western Australia? Our lovely library in Walyalup Koort first opened in September 1949. A fitting place indeed to have our Local History Centre.

Report by Gayle O’Leary


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