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Quarry Street site

The site at 7-15 Quarry Street was once occupied by Park Bungalow. It was the property of the Colonial Surgeon, Dr H.C. Barnett, and the home of C.Y. O'Connor and his family 1891-3, 1896-1900. It became the property of Fremantle City Council in 1961, when it was demolished. The site was occupied by the YMCA and then a child-minding centre, which has now also been demolished. The levelled, vacant block is for sale in 2021. It has frontages onto Quarry Street and also directly onto Fremantle Park.

18 August 2021

Unfit for Office

4143 sqm site for sale in Quarry Street

Last week the Fremantle Council Finance Committee, chaired by mayoral candidate Hannah Fitzhardinge, went behind closed doors to discuss a confidential item - the controversial sale of 7-15 Quarry Street. One minute later, with no discussion, the committee came out of confidential mode, having voted to get the CEO to sell the land.

The vote on that decision is not recorded in the minutes - a violation of the Local Government Act. The law is very clear: the vote resulting from any council motion must be recorded and published.

Last year in November the Fremantle Society alerted you to this controversial sale stating:

a) the sale was not being properly advertised

b) there was (and still is not) a for sale sign on the property

c) a great deal of time and money has been wasted getting this property sold. The Fremantle Herald reported: "In December 2013 the council offered to sell the site to a developer friend of mayor Brad Pettitt, pushing through a quick deal so he could apply for tax credits of affordable housing - so quick its publicly released business plan contained misleading information."

This rare and glorious site of 4143 sqm adjacent to a park in this current boom should be worth around $2,000 per sqm, but council will sell it for much less.

Not only have they not marketed the property correctly or wisely, they should not be engaging in such a major transaction a few weeks before an election, as a new council may have other ideas about the property.

Mayoral candidates Fitzhardinge and Mofflin and councillors seeking re election have shown themselves unfit to manage the finances of Fremantle, engaging in dumb deal after dumb deal, with no effort to learn from their mistakes and no effort to listen to issues raised.

Fremantle's Senior Real Estate agent John Dethridge

Fremantle's senior real estate agent John Dethridge told the Fremantle Society yesterday that :

"In my view the only method to dispose of this land to ensure the best price is achievable is to offer the land for sale by tender allowing all developers an opportunity of say 30 -40 days to carry out their due diligence before submitting their tender."

Former head of REIWA Hayden Groves and other agents spoken to by the Fremantle Society again this week agree.

Poor Quality Developments

We have seen since Brad Pettitt became mayor in 2009 a series of mediocre developments. As John Dethridge explained:

"The current market conditions have given rise to a new brand of developers with little or no experience who generally only have eyes for the money and little understanding of the value of quality development in a region such as Fremantle."

Former mayor Peter Tagliaferri agrees, stating: "the big hitters havent come to Freo."

Instead we have seen developers like Pindan, builder of King's Square, and a series of unattractive boxes throughout Fremantle.

The Quarry Street site was going to be rezoned R!00 but that attracted 50 submissions against the idea, stating objection to possibly four storeys on the site. It is now zoned R80, a zoning that only attracted one complaint, but the developer may be seeking 5 or 6 storeys, as he is the same developer whose low offer was rejected last year.

Instead of an open and transparent process, we have a secretive and flawed one, again.

Time for a Change - and a Fresh Start

Mayoral candidate Hannah Fitzhardinge, Acting Mayor Sullivan, and Crs Thompson, Lang, Archibald, and Wainright all voted for the secret sale last week, and all bar Cr Wainright possibly are seeking reelection. They all need to go.

Fremantle needs a fresh start with people who learn from their mistakes, not those who keep making them.

Cr Vujcic may be able to save the situation as it goes to full council next week and she is genuine in her concerns for Fremantle. But she will need community support.

There is a certain irony that this site was once home to the man who did more for Fremantle than anyone - CY O'Connor, but his home was demolished by Fremantle Council, and the land is about to be sold in a poorly managed deal similar to other financial disasters of council.

Next Financial Scandal:

Coming soon to Fremantle Council: New lease for Fremantle Markets without going to public tender and without providing stallholders with a voice to protect their leases.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
18 August, 2021
0409 223622

25 November 2020

C.Y. O'Connor's home demolished by Fremantle Council—you can now buy the land in a hushed-up auction

Fremantle Society Questions to Council

The pretty home pictured, Park Bungalow, where CY O'Connor lived, was demolished by Fremantle Council long ago, and the land will be sold next week. You cannot see the home any more, but you can go to Parliament House where this painting is, and reminisce about a lost opportunity to have a museum for CY O'Connor. Next week you can buy the land, being sold by Council in a process called "indefensible" by the former head of REIWA.

The Fremantle Society went to Council tonight along with several committee members to ask the following questions, which included one about the auction. We will get answers, after the auction.

Fremantle Council Meeting 25 November, 2020

Questions from Fremantle Society (President John Dowson)

Income producing assets of Fremantle Council: In 1997 Fremantle Council owned $97 million of income producing assets. When questioned about the total now, a council officer on 9 November 2020 informed the Fremantle Society that the figure was “about $48 million before depreciation”.

Q1: Given that your own council documents on 31 October 2020 (p263 attachments part 3) state that the figure is $22.6 million, and an earlier figure given in June 2020 was $21.6m, what is the true and accurate figure in this alarmingly rapid decline in rate payer assets?

Q2: Due to the number of ratepayer properties sold off by Council, and the need to maximise returns for ratepayers given recent sales by Council at less than market value, why has Council not postponed the sale of 7-15 Quarry Street given the eruption of concern since the proposed 2 December auction was discovered by the community?

Given the lack of publicity council has given to the sale and the refusal to even put a sign on the site, former head of REIWA Hayden Groves has labelled the sale ‘indefensible’, especially given that in a rising market, a deferral to next year would maximise the return and allow more time for people to hear of the auction. This morning, just 7 days before the auction, an advertisement was published in the West, without even giving the time of the auction. Council’s actions in this matter are not good enough and lead to conjecture as to why Council has acted so poorly. The Fremantle Society supports Cr Vujcic’s motion before you tonight.

Q3: On p8 of tonight’s agenda, in response to why Fremantle Council has not vigorously campaigned to save the heritage listed traffic bridge, the longest wooden structure of its kind in the State, the answer is that the Council does not see the point in commissioning heritage and engineering reports for a project Council does not control.

The Fremantle Society is very disappointed in this answer- the lack of allocation of a single budget dollar towards the campaign to save the bridge shows a lack of real will.

The Fremantle Society asks again that Fremantle Council does what the community cannot afford – get expert reports to back up the retention of the level 1a heritage listed bridge.

Q4: In relation to SPT2001-3 the new West End Policy Heritage Area, the Fremantle Society is not satisfied that officers have taken on board the serious concerns raised by the community to make the policy clearer, better, and more able to protect the importance of the heritage of the area. The Fremantle Society spent dozens of hours studying the new policy and making recommendations and positive suggestions, all ignored. Given that it has taken 30 years for this review and that there is no urgency, we ask that you defer the new policy until it has been peer reviewed and that officers demonstrate for example that problems with extra storeys being allowed on top of existing buildings as in clause 5 are not allowed.

Q5: Will Council explain specifically, given the concerns raised especially about vague terminology in the new policy, how the new West End policy is stronger and better than the previous one?

John Dowson

17 November 2020

Postpone the Sale - and Put up a Damn Sign!

The scandalous handling of the sale of an $8 - $10 million ratepayer asset by Fremantle Council was brought to the public's attention last week by the Fremantle Society and caused a furore on social media, and again in the Herald, which has been dutifully covering the scandal since 2013 when: "In December 2013 the council offered to sell the site to a developer friend of mayor Brad Pettitt, pushing through a quick deal so he could apply for tax credits of affordable housing- so quick its publicly released business plan contained misleading information." (Herald October 24, 2020).

But, despite the furore, Council has still not even erected a sign on the property to be sold, and nor has it postponed the sale in order to employ a local or major real estate agent to make sure there is enough publicity to get a decent sale price. That is simply not good enough.

The Fremantle Society contacted many people, among them Hayden Groves, the former State President of REIWA, who replied:

I was astonished to see this property come up for sale using a ‘sale by owner’ platform several  ......Not only is the decision not to use a professional at arms’ length agent a poor governance decision from a local authority, it risks determination of fair market value for an important asset.

Hayden reiterated his concerns today, calling Council's actions "indefensible."

Site was home to CY O'Connor

In the meantime, thanks to Garry Gillard and his amazing treasure trove of Fremantle material,, which covers Fremantle Society records and articles in detail, a fascinating history of the Quarry Street site is emerging.

The site once housed Park Bungalow, the home of Colonial Surgeon Barnett. It was a large 16 room house with verandahs and stables. The very year he moved out, sold his furniture, and leased the property to CY O'Connor, he held a lavish party as described below in January 1891:
"On Wednesday the 14th, Mr. and Mrs. Barnett gave a musical " At Home " at their residence, Park Bungalow, Fremantle. About 100 guests were present, including His Excellency the Governor, the Premier and Mrs. Forrest, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Mr. Marmion, Mr. Justice Stone and Mrs. Stone, the Commandant and Mrs. Phillips, the Archdeacon of Perth and Mrs. Watkins, the Resident Magistrate and Mrs. Fairbairn, and a large number of the ieadisg residents of Perth and Fremantle. An extremely good musical programme had been arranged........ The spacious verandahs were complètely enclosed with canvass and flags and decorated with bamboos, shrubs and flowers, the whole being lighted up with numerous Japanese lanterns."

Garry Gillard quotes Tony Evans:

"For the first year in Fremantle, the (O'Connor) family leased 'Park Bungalow', 7 Quarry Street, then owned by the Colonial Surgeon, Dr H.C. Barnett. When Dr Barnett returned to occupy his house in January 1893, the O'Connors rented, for a few months only, 'Yeldam [Yeldham] House', Lot 300 in Cantonment Street. Afterwards they leased 'Plympton House', a short distance away in Beach Street, overlooking the Swan River (now the harbour). The family would move back into 'Park Bungalow' in 1896 for four years, then return to 'Plympton House' in 1900. ... 'Park Bungalow', dating from the early 1870s, was built of local limestone on raised ground overlooking Fremantle Park and within sight of the present-day Fremantle Arts Centre (then the asylum). It had high ceilings, a library, dining room, music room and drawing room, bedrooms and a wine cellar. A housekeeper's quarters were located on a lower level. What would have been an important consideration for O'Connor was the provision of stabling for horses, a feature also of 'Plympton House'. Both 'Park Bungalow' and 'Plympton House' would have been substantial residences for those times, fitting homes for someone in O'Connor's position.

"Sadly, 'Park Bungalow', which could have become a Fremantle museum to C.Y. O'Connor, was demolished in the early 1960s. A good impression of the style and atmosphere of the interior of 'Park Bungalow' can be gained from a visit to 'Samson House' in Ellen Street, diagonally opposite across the park. Owned by National Trust and open to the public on Sunday, it was built around the same period. The O'Connors were frequent guests of the then owners, Michael and Mary Samson." (Evans, A.G. 2001, C. Y. O'Connor: His Life and Times, UWAP.)

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

11 November 2020

7-15 Quarry Street Major Land Sale by Fremantle Council

Major Land Sale: Who Benefits from this Incompetence?

The Fremantle Society for years has warned of bad deals done by Fremantle Council and poor financial management - immature and reckless financial wastage of precious ratepayer assets leading to poor quality outcomes.

Just last week, former Treasurer Mike Nahan, at Parliament House, said the biggest of them all, the King's Square deal, was a "dud."

Years of warnings should have led to more care and due diligence by Mayor and Council. But now we find that one of the biggest ratepayer assets, the 4,133 square metre site at 7 to15 Quarry Street, is inexplicably being sold quietly with very few people knowing of the sale.

The Fremantle Herald reported on October 24th: "In December 2013 the council offered to sell the site to a developer friend of mayor Brad Pettitt, pushing through a quick deal so he could apply for tax credits of affordable housing- so quick its publicly released business plan contained misleading information." 

Two councillors and the mayor declared a friendship interest with the developer Bruce Moriaty. The mayor left the room, but Crs Pemberton and Coggin stayed and voted for the proposal while declaring an impartiality interest.

At that stage the site was 1477 sqm and the deal with the developer, though passed 8-0 by Council, didn't end up going through. The new larger site of 4,133 sim came about by demolishing a useful functioning child care centre and amalgamating three blocks. 

The site is listed on a Victorian forsalebyowner page and due for auction on December 2nd. Contact details take you to the voice mail of a Fremantle Council officer who is away on holidays. Phone calls to substitute staff go to voicemail.  When asked why there are no signs on the property advertising the sale, a local was told by Council that "there is a lot of anti social behaviour in the area and the signs would get damaged."

Two councillors were contacted and neither knew anything about the sale. Two real estate agents were contacted and neither- one with 40 years experience in Fremantle and the other a large national brand, know nothing of the sale.

This is an extraordinary situation three weeks from an auction.

The photos above show what a glorious site this is, directly and remarkably abutting the large expanses of Fremantle Park. It is a rare cleared site near the centre of Fremantle. It should be worth around $10 million, but not if Council is keeping the sale quiet for unknown reasons.

At the very least this auction must be postponed, and a local or major agent appointed to maximise the interest and return on this valuable ratepayer asset for the ratepayers. 

Its also time for a government enquiry into the continual dumb deals of Council.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
0409 223622
11 November, 2020

References and Links

as above

Garry Gillard | New: 18 August, 2021 | Now: 19 August, 2021