06/06/2006 - 22:00

Governments plan revival

06/06/2006 - 22:00


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Barrack Square may get a lifeline within the year as plans to redevelop the city foreshore gain momentum.

Governments plan revival

Barrack Square may get a lifeline within the year as plans to redevelop the city foreshore gain momentum.

Last week, WA Business News spoke to a number of ferry operators at Barrack Square who likened the area to a “ghost town” that attracts fewer than 100 visitors a day and has insufficient parking and amenities.

But a joint venture between the state government and the City of Perth may turn around the fortunes for the ailing tourist precinct, with Perth Lord Mayor Dr Peter Nattrass confirming he had met Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan to discuss the foreshore plans. Dr Nattrass said the minister had agreed a joint project with council would be the best choice.

“The city council has been committed for a long time to promoting our greatest asset, the Swan River. We initiated an international design competition as early as 1992 and selected the best plan for the foreshore area, but the government of the day was not as committed and had other priorities,” Dr Nattrass told WA Business News.

He said the current state government was happy to work with the council to come up with a plan for the site that was in the best interests of the people of Perth.

Dr Nattrass agreed there were parking problems at Barrack Square at present and said he would like to see a “shuttle service” operating between car parks and the jetty.

“Barrack Square was upgraded six years ago but its success really depends on the outlets there. I think a simple fish and chips operation, like what Kailis have in Fremantle, would start to attract people back to the jetty in the short term,” he said.

As part of that upgrade, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure: installed a new jetty and four covered walkways; extended three existing jetties; built a ramped landing to accommodate disabled access for users of the South Perth ferry; upgraded vessel fendering systems; improved signage; and constructed two new jetty pavilion buildings.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Ron Buckey said the area between Barrack Square and The Narrows needed to be advanced through development as soon as possible.

“The whole area needs to be brightened with a development that fits in with the environment and promotes public interaction with the river,” he said.

Mr Buckey suggested businesses in Barrack Square were probably feeling the effects of lower domestic tourism to the state, which he said was a flow-on from the effect of higher petrol prices on disposable income, among other things.

Latest Tourism WA figures confirm that visitor numbers are down by 8.2 per cent overall in 2005 compared with 2004 – including an 8.9 per cent drop in intrastate visitors and a 4.3 per cent drop in visitor numbers from interstate.

Opposition tourism and small business spokeswoman, Katie Hodson-Thomas, said the value of the WA tourism industry fell by almost $200 million last year as domestic expenditure slumped and the number of Chinese and Japanese visitors also fell dramatically.

“Visitor numbers are down in WA compared to other states and tourism needs an injection of funds by government, right across the board,” she said. “We need more destination marketing and for the [city foreshore] development to move forward. You only have to look at the area to realise it’s underutilised.”

Ms Hodson-Thomas said the Swan River was Perth’s centerpiece, a “jewel in the crown”, and visitors wanted to see and be near the water.

The City of Perth released its Mounts Bay Concept Plan in November last year and Dr Nattrass said the final scheme was likely to be a different plan to the one proposed by council.

The plan outlines the development of a boutique hotel, residential serviced apartments, waterfront restaurants and pedestrian promenade, a sheltered cove for casual boat moorings and a beach west of Barrack Square.

While the DPI revises the project, business owners at Barrack Square are left to wait and see what will become of their operations in the meantime.

Golden Sun Ferry Cruises owner Bill Edgar told WA Business News last week he had been in the ferry business for 24 years, and despite family pressure to sell up he was “prepared to ride out” the rough times.

A spokeswoman for Rottnest Express/Boat Torque Cruises said the Bell Tower had brought more visitors to Barrack Square since, but visitor numbers were still low, particularly in the late afternoon and in the off-season.

“Amenity is still a major problem at the jetty because there is no 24-hour ATM for people to use and nowhere that sells newspapers. The only ATM can be found at the pub and it doesn’t open until 11am,” she said.

Meanwhile, The historic SS Perth, otherwise known as the Riverboat Gambler, will no longer cruise the Swan River, following its sale last week for $75,000 to an unknown buyer who plans to convert the vessel into a houseboat and cruise the canals of Mandurah.


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