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Like Westport’s vision for Fremantle? I have a word of caution: Waterbank

20 June 2022

Whenever anyone argues that moving the container port to Kwinana will be good for Fremantle, I have a word of caution: Waterbank.

Central to Westport selling itself to Fremantle is that a new port in Kwinana will open up the opportunity for a major new residential land development on North Quay and Rous Head where the container port is now. There’s an inviting vision of a thriving mini-city with thousands of new apartments and residents.

A North Quay high-density redevelopment was put forward as an option in Richard Wellers landmark Boomtown 2050 study and was also entertained, in part, in the earlier North Port Quay proposal.

But the long-stalled development on riverside prime East Perth development site of Riverbank provides a cautionary counter-narrative. One that illustrates a more likely outcome for North Fremantle minus its port.

Over a decade ago, Waterbank promised 1000 apartments, hotel, offices, and retail. Today there is little more than a sandpit with river views.

Riverbank Vision 2011

Riverbank Vision 2011

Riverbank Reality 2022

Riverbank Reality 2022

Troublingly, North Quay makes the 6-hectare Riverbank look like a tiny pint-sized development. North Quay is over 20 times the size.

Even with a focused effort, North Quay will take many, many decades to develop. The reality is the former Fremantle Port, will for decades to come, be a giant sand pit with ocean views.

Perth has a sketchy record in inner-urban land development. We’ve never even achieved our modest 47% infill targets The idea that this will suddenly turn around after the Port has moved is naive.

This is the lesson of Riverbank that should be heeded. There is not going to be a thriving urban village where there once was a container port – at least in our lifetimes.

It would be better for the state government to focus on quality infill in Fremantle’s current CBD and its East End. These are precincts that have been calling out for development and are ready to go. They only need sufficient developer interest.  North Quay will only dilute that interest and Fremantle will be worse off as a result.


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