Andrew O’Connor – 10 November 2016
Posted online ABC News
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Three West Australian Government departments and more than 1,500 public servants will be relocated to Fremantle as part of a massive redevelopment of Kings Square.
The departments of Housing, Corrective Services, and Transport will begin operating from the port city in 2020, after the construction of 20,000 square metres of new office space.
Premier Colin Barnett said the development, which will involve three years of building works on the site of the old Myer building, would provide a much-needed economic fillip for the city.
“In total, 1,500 public sector jobs will come into Fremantle. It’s a huge boost to the working population of the City of Fremantle,” he said.
The Government expects more than 400 jobs will be created on the project itself, first in construction and then in fitout, with the work being undertaken by developer Sirona Capital.
“The construction itself means jobs, but the 1,500 permanent jobs will boost the whole retail ambience, housing and development of Fremantle,” he said.
Mr Barnett said Fremantle’s former role as a main commercial trading centre had declined in the decades since the Second World War with the loss of manufacturing and port jobs.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettit said the Government’s commitment was a “real vote of confidence” in the city.
“Fremantle has struggled economically for some time but we are seeing a new wave of investment,” he said.
“With office workers coming, we’ll see a real catalyst in terms of more investment … and actually returning Fremantle as a seven day a week economy and as Perth’s second city.”
The Government first pledged to move the Department of Housing to Fremantle in 2013, and Finance Minister Sean L’Estrange said the new 15-year lease would deliver substantial savings.
“It represents $53 million of cost savings to Government, so that’s a great boost for us,” he said.
The move is part of a broader push by the Barnett Government decentralise public sector jobs out of the Perth CBD.
The departments of Water, Economic Regulation and the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority are moving to Joondalup, while the new headquarters from the Department of Parks and Wildlife is being built in Bunbury.
Other government services have also been shifted into suburban areas.
Construction work in Kings Square is due to get underway early next year.
“We expect to commence demolition in April [or] May of next year, construction will follow shortly thereafter,” Sirona’s Matthew McNeilly said
Retail elements of the project are predicted to be in place by 2019.
But WA Labor said the Government had taken too long to act on its commitment to redevelop the area, first made in 2012 ahead of the 2013 election.
Labor Member for Fremantle Simone McGurk said she welcomed the development as the city lost around 2,000 jobs when Fremantle Hospital was downgraded after the opening of Fiona Stanley Hospital.
“The decision to move a government department to Fremantle will replace many of those lost jobs, and be the anchor for important building works in the Fremantle CBD,” she said.