News Flash – South Mole to reopen by the weekend!

South Mole was closed to the public over 7 weeks ago. As time has dragged on Fremantle Shipping News has queried when it would be reopened. Only yesterday we wondered aloud whether Ministerial intervention might be required to encourage Freo Ports to make a decision. Well, lo and behold, today we are advised by Fremantle Ports that South Mole will be open again by the weekend – but not to vehicles. Well done Freo Ports! Here’s the story.

Seven weeks ago last Sunday, South Mole was closed to all comers as a result of illegal camping, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Credit Jean Hudson

Immediately prior to the closure, there was a rave on South Mole that led to police attendance. As we reported at the time, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to Fremantle Ports’ decision to close South Mole to the public.

The good news is that as of this coming weekend, and maybe as early as this Friday, South Mole will again be open to the public – but not to vehicles.

Pedestrians, cyclists, gophers,folk on scooters, babies in prams, will all be welcome, but not cars, vans and trucks!

A big bold bollard will restrict entry to South Mole accordingly.
The backstory to South Mole’s closure is pretty well known around Freo and goes something like this. Throughout summer Fremantle Ports, who own and control the South Mole precinct for Port purposes – it’s not Crown land – were experiencing up to 30 illegal campers on South Mole each night. Mostly travelling backpackers, these campers put pressure on toilet facilities and there had been numerous complaints to Fremantle Ports from the public. South Mole doesn’t offer the public health facilities of a public camping site. 
Indeed, camping isn’t permitted on South Mole – as the signposts clearly indicate. Fremantle Ports made efforts to stop illegal camping through additional signage and issuing of tickets, all without success.

Credit Deanna Shanahan

As South Mole got busier, the interaction between various users – campers, cyclists, pedestrians, fisherfolk, visitors – became more problematic. There are no footpaths on the mole, and it’s only wide enough for one lane of vehicular traffic.
Over the past 7 weeks, Freo Ports people have considered alternative ways to solve the camping problem and the various impacts such a decision might have. Now that the decision has been made to re-open South Mole but excluding vehicular traffic, Freo Ports recognise some people may be disappointed that they can’t drive out to the green Lighthouse, but at least it’s now open again to the public generally to enjoy.
Neil Stanbury, Freo Ports Manager Communications and Community told Fremantle Shipping News that “Most people want South Mole to be a place that’s safe, clean and enjoyable for everyone. That’s what we want too.”
Monitoring campers and issuing parking tickets hasn’t proven to be a viable solution for the Port people. Mr Stanbury emphasised it’s not as simple as calling the police, who have other more pressing duties. And parking tickets are often ignored by overseas backpackers.
Mr Stanbury said “We believe the decision we’ve taken is the best option, now and for the future.” He added that Freo Port will continue to assess the approach adopted.

While recognising that the no-vehicles approach will make access harder for some, Mr Stanbury said the appraoch adopted makes South Mole accessible for all.

We should also remind our readers that North Mole remains open to vehicles and has a disabled-access fishing facility.

The Shipping News understands that Fremantle Ports will now begin to give consideration to improving facilities in the South Mole precinct. Public toilets would be a good first step. Perhaps allowing a pop-up coffee van would be a good second step! But perhaps not a bar on hot summer nights!

Well done, Freo Ports!

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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