Kings Square deal ‘crazy’ | Fremantle Herald Interactive


KINGS SQUARE DEAL ‘CRAZY’ by the Fremantle Herald

FORMER Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri has broken cover to declare Fremantle council’s plans for Kings Square are “crazy, seriously” and a “disaster waiting to happen”.

Source: Kings Square deal ‘crazy’ | Fremantle Herald Interactive

Well that says it all, front page of one of Fremantle’s local papers.

Comments from an Ex Mayor.

Questions in Parliament.

Secret hidden documents by council.

Letters to the Minister for local government.

9 months of unanswered questions from members of the public.

The Mayor and CEO public berating a member of the public for asking questions they are still yet to answer.

$30 Million question on the councils business plan

Millions in lost revenue from Queensgate?

No transparency from council

Council reporting different cost figures from the how the business was calculated.

A $2.35 million park bench

Who came up with the magic $97,500,000.00 figure?

The list of questions just goes on and on, the more you look the worse it gets.

Now an Ex Freo Mayor saying the plan is too risky an investment for the city and a crazy idea, better still he warned them before they did it, why ask advice and then not take it when its given?

Its getting clearer why the Leedwell business is being kept hidden, did they warn the council not to proceed too?

Leave a Reply


  1. Mark I think the FRAA, yourself and Martin Lee should seriously think about getting the message as what was described in the presentation on this website out to the wider community. I honestly believe that is the only way this project will be stopped from proceeding if the weight of public opinion is behind it and the community sees what is going on. The problem with the calculations and the assumptions that were made at the beginning of the project, which are now clearly incorrect.

    These articles that you keep posting are great in a lot of ways, but they don’t really offer an alternative. What alternative are you putting forward? Do you want this project completely shelved? Do you want an independent auditor to come into council? I have suggested that some of the money goes into the refurbishment of the council chambers, if they are deemed in that poor condition, by an independent review, with a possible upgrade to the Library. I certainly don’t think that the $50 million should be plowed into a new council chambers for CoF public servants to swan around it.

    Maybe suggesting that the City should think about what it can afford to spend upgrading the City offices and Library without selling off its assets, like most other businesses. I am sure there is a figure there, say $8 million. Living within its means without plunging the CoF into the red. You state that Queensgate was receiving $750,000 per annum in rent, according to the CoF budget. I’m sure the Main parking station generates a lot of revenue, not to mention the 200 free to CoF Staff carparking bays given away annually that could be recovered (this was additional cost to be borne by ratepayers once the sale went through as CoF still wanted to hire out the bays).

    An interesting suggestion that came out of the Herald was the use of Queensgate as a Council chambers or moving it to another part of the town.

    Are you wanting the sale of Queensgate, the carpark and Spicers site to be taken off the table when this ‘deal’ with Sirona expires? There is a very good chance that the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, some members of Council and CEO will want this renewed.

    What alternative are you suggesting? I’d be interested in hearing an alternative strategy than for the sale of these assets. Or are all you are suggesting is that the sales go ahead and the City go ahead with its plans to rebuild the City of Fremantle offices, but the sale prices of these assets are flawed and need to be reviewed? Was the intention of FRAA’s meeting with Tinley to halt the progress of this deal or was is to have it reviewed?

    • Diana Ryan says:

      Mark has worked to highlight the issues, get the media support, and has done an absolutely outstanding job as have the expert commentators of the community.

      Its what comes next that is difficult.

      The Local Govt Act is a joke, and both sides of politics have indicated to me they want a lot changed – that or whatever it is the Dept of Local Govt & Communities actualy does, as they are not effective policemen during issues, only after things appear to have broken out do they intervene.

      That would take years, and you can bet your back teeth that in this lead up to election period the main parties will not co-operate, even if they agree with each other.

      The same applies to what might have eventually been able to help here (and still might, but it will require not just Mark but the Freo community to keep up the momentum for years…… think about that), and that is the excellent idea to let loose Auditor General Colin Murphy on the councils.

      This is long overdue, and resisted by councils, but the AG is greatly respected and even if he gives a clean bill of financial health, he tracks things that concern over years, ie, Healthways use of corporate boxes by the Board, etc, so inappropriate actions are also watched over.

      Again, this would involve changes to Acts, and the AG detailing new funding requirements, etc. So that is years away and the Mayor, CEO and some of the councillors may be gone by then.

      Then comes the ridiculouslydifficult way in which must make complaints to the Dept of Local Govt – here’s an example “The most effective way to provide your complaint would be in writing to the Department. When forwarding your complaint please be sure to be as succinct as you possibly can and identify where and why you believe any offence or failure to comply with any required regulation , legislation or process.”

      Clearly mere mortals cannot possible hope to do that, they don’t know the Act nor should they be expected to.

      However, it gets worse when all the Dept has to do is be assured that the right boxes were ticked. Or they send your complaint to council, who assure them all the right boxes were ticked, and then the Dept sends you a patronising letter about what it is you were complaining about the means of going about were, ie, the reason they council is undertaking this is to [patronise, patronise].

      Complain to the Minister? See the above process, rinse and repeat.

      Complain to the Media? I think Mark did an absolutely brilliant job there, but he did not get major media support from, say, The West Australian, who flood the paper with Freo stories (its a historical thing) but always lightweight stuff, or it dutifully publishes the concerns of Freo over MOST of the other councils in Perth.

      It did so with Tagliaferri, so this is not a Pettitt thing.

      You can arrange to have questions asked in Parliament – hard to do. But it was pissed away.

      The City just waited it out. If the CEO’s contract is not renewed then anything that goes wrong will be blamed on him.

      You can try a very determined campaign to get the half of the council that is coming up for re-election to answer hard questions about all of this, in the leadup to the election. I mean it is half of the council. Try to get them to clear give support for your concerns and pledge action.

      The real problem is that its more than two years away to get rid of the mayor and try to encourage new people to come in and challenge those that will most likely seek to cling on. Remember, councillors will get $120,000 each for a four year term now, and the almost complete lack of opposition to their combined actions means they have had a very heady time of it. I wonder how many of those councillors will be willing to move on and let other people have a go now? They are not necessary after two terms. They’ve had nearly a decade and that’s time enough for new perspectives to come in, even in city building terms.

      • Diana Ryan says:

        Meant to add – that leaves blogs. Mark’s is getting up there and Roel Loopers attracts a lot more attention than people realise.

        It really does bother the mayor and some of the councillors, as a result.

        Blogs are the way to put forward the actual or “other” truth. Here is mine:

        I know who reads mine, as it was extremely well targeted and its viewing numbers were unexpected for a conservative area, a council the West ignores!

        I’ve read your blog, Matthew, and you are a very good writer, and a man of significant commercial experience, as opposed to working in govt depts. or for pollies, is a good head to have onboard councll, but when I read your last post (I think) about handouts, etc, I was angered.

        You are not a self made man, by any means. You can’t possibly have been, you simply aren’t that old and you have benefited from communally based systems for a long time. You will expect a lot of things to work your way as you work towards, and go in to retirement. You expect govts to facilitate business in many ways. Its still an “I expect the following X,Y,Z” situation.

        There are so many holes in what you had to say that day. Someone who thinks as cut’n’dried as that can’t possibly be a leader of people, because there are virtually no modern cases of “only the strongest survive”.. not even Andrew Forrest. The strongest expect assistance too.

    • Mark says:

      Matthew I’m all for greater public knowledge.
      Simply I’m not against Fremantle development, in Kings Sq.
      What I want to see is a true picture of the impact on the city finances.
      Currently the facts are hidden from the residents and rate payers.
      To make informed decisions is not possible without all the relevant facts, something this council seems to be determined to hide from its electors.
      I have always been for an external auditor to go over this and other financial decisions made by this council. I think I have made this comment many times
      I would think a real minister for local government would have had the questions raised properly looked into, instead he choose to further cover up the goings on.
      I think the AG would be appropriate to do this, to make further comment on a way forward would be premature till a full investigation is done, to get a real picture of the city financial position.
      The financial questions may run deeper than just the Kings Sq hidden documents.

      • Diana Ryan says:

        Worse, I think this sort of thing is a poor example to other councils…. In Canning they did a feasible study in to whether or not a hotel would work in the area. It said that it would do good business but not enough to cover the costs to set it all up, therefore it was not recommended..

        Now, in the absence of a council, the staff wish to revisit the idea, which may mean they attempt to provide land for a hotel, which is really a job for the state.

        Councils need to show they can be innovative, but they are not wheelers and dealers in real estate.

  2. Suzanne says:


    Why ask ex Mayor Peter Tagliaferri for advice then ignore his experience and logic?
    Did they dislike what they heard?

    Why have your Ratepayers foot the bill for Leedwell, then keep that advice secret?
    Did they dislike what they read?

    I note they were quite verbose in publicly lambasting Mr. Lee when he merely asked questions which were never answered.

    Pick & choose
    Scary governance.

  3. Bob Law. says:

    Here are some thoughts in reply to Matthew Hansen’s comments; if it is deemed to be necessary to unload the Queensgate site and the Spicer’s site put them out to public tender on a leasehold basis individually or together so that the tender documents are publicly scrutinised and tenders are publicly scrutinised before any contract is entered into.
    Get the dead hand of councillors and mayor off the situation; it then becomes a purely administrative operation undertaken within normal and legal boundaries and subject to public scrutiny; after all we are dealing with publicly owned land.
    As for the council chambers themselves any redevelopment of them ( and a case needs to be made for that and accepted by the public ) should be a stand alone operation ( if entered into ) with the normal financing, design, tender and evaluation of tenders again publicly scrutinised before any contract is awarded.
    Leaving aside for the moment the probity ( or otherwise ) of the present proposals and their merits or otherwise financially ( yet to be demonstrated by council ) the linking of the development of the old Myer site, the Queensgate site and the Spicers site with the redevelopment of the current council chambers is the source of all the questioning of these proposals and their rationale.

  4. Martin says:


    I cannot speak for Mark, but my involvement in this has always about getting to the bottom of the financial analysis in the Kings Square Business Plan.

    I did not get involved to kill off the Kings Square project. However, it does need to stand on it own two feet.

    It is now clear for all to see that not only was the Business Plan flawed from the start, but Fremantle rate payers have been deliberately misled by our elected representatives and City staff over the Kings Square Project. The evaluation has been fabricated so that it could sail through a vote of Council, and so that it would not be questioned by rate payers ahead of the vote. However, the more questions they now try to answer, the deeper the hole they keep digging for themselves.

    I am still waiting for a single Councillor to stand up for the rate payers that have elected them and tell us the truth. It is fair to say they are ALL missing in action. The questions will keep coming thick and fast until they finally come clean!

    It came out in the Herald this weekend that Former Mayor Peter Tagliaferri was asked to review the Business Plan and called the deal “crazy, seriously!”. Brad Petite and Josh Wilson sought his advice and then chose to ignore it. We have been told that the Business Plan has been reviewed by “experts” but they will not let us see the expert advice – not surprising, since Mr Tagliaferri has pretty much set the tone.

    Mr Tagliaferri summed up the project quite concisely and gave some very sound advice, but our elected representatives have neither the technical skills nor intelligence to properly consider what they were being told – either that or they just couldn’t care less. Petite and Wilson have simply taken this advice to work out which bits of the Business Plan needed to be buried deep from sight, and where to focus with their spin, spin, spin…

    Try finding reference to the $45 million [or $48.5 million] development costs in the Business Plan! Try finding reference to the $97.5 million residual asset value. The two most important assumptions for the project are not mentioned in the Assumptions section, the Executive Summary or explained in the Results. A Business Plan is usually written to inform decision makers – this one was clearly written to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

    This project is able to raise $8.8 million in debt – that is it!!! The remaining $37 – 40 million is to be funded from selling other income generating properties owned by the City of Fremantle [rate payers]. Tagliaferri nailed it – “Crazy, seriously!”

    According to answers Mark Woodcock received from Council this week (see Council’s meeting Agenda) The Queensgate Centre used to generate $1.2 million per year in 2010, which would have valued it at approximately $25 million. The Business Plan assumes it earns $750,000 per year, valuing it at approx. $15 million. Sirona are picking it up for just $6.35 million. Then take away the lost income from the COF efforts over the past few years to provide it on a vacant possession basis and Sirona are effectively getting it for $5.0 million. A more than $10 million gift to Sirona from us rate payers.

    This is the same company that Brad and Josh and McKenzie wanted to bail out to the tune of $3 million by buying apartments in their Heirloom development to get it across the line – despite also admitting it would be a bad deal for rate payers.

    Add this $10 million loss to the project’s negative $30 million NPV and this project investment alone is eroding the COF asset base by $40 million. [The only additional facilities we get is a baby change facility]

    If the projects over-runs its budget it gets funded from… yes, more COF property sales – it’s all in the Business Plan small print – if you can find it! Mr Tagliaferri was correct in branding this a “high risk” investment for the COF.

    In July 2012 Council voted to raid the asset base for another $12 million to spend on recurring expenditures, in direct contradiction to the Council’s Investment Policy guidelines SG14. Another $6-7 million vote to make up the Kings Square funding shortfall in early 2013…This brings the total that this Council has voted to erode from the COF Asset Base since mid 2012 to more than $60 million!!! Now that’s really “Crazy!!!”

    Why are they doing this? As I have now discovered, most of our Councillors are just “C grade” politicians simply using our Council to hone their skill so that they can have a crack at pre-selection for their preferred political parties elsewhere. It does not take much digging to work out who they are. I had no idea that this was the case when I started asking questions back in Oct 2014 [and frankly wish I didn’t]. Brad Petite, Josh Wilson, Hume, Coggin, Sullivan, Wainwright, etc, etc all need something to point at to show what they have achieved. Given that these people are directly responsible for running Fremantle into the ground [just take a look around] they are desperate for something – anything – to point at. Kings Square is all they have left…

    Petite’s and McKenzie’s personal attack on me for “daring” to ask questions about Kings Square just shows how grubby Freo Council politics has become. Forget the facts, just fabricate some words to be put in my mouth and then vilify me in a Thinking Allowed article in the Herald for saying them. Could they get much lower than that? …but just watch them!

    Brad has already signalled he is exiting Council in 2 years for a crack at grown-up’s politics – he expects somebody else to pick up his mess after he has gone. He is also looking for a scapegoat for his 10 years of failure!

    Matthew, I am not and have no intention of being a politician. However, I hate being Bull$#!tted and lied to, particularly by people we elected. I have had enough in the past 8-9 months to last a lifetime. It is not for me to take the lead on whether the project should be scrapped or not. I was interstate when this was going on and only got back to Freo around the time of the vote, so it is only fair that I do not complain about the concept and design as perhaps the opportunity for that has passed. This does not exclude me for asking the financial questions I have and I should expect to get answers to those questions.

    I am perhaps aligned with the approach taken by Mark in that he and FRRA are trying to improve transparency at Council [of which the is NONE!], and to hold our Council accountable for their statements and actions.

    Other rate payers and residents also have a responsibility to step up and demand better from our Council. Perhaps you and others should be shaking the trees to get more to come out and hold the Council to account and putting pressure on our elected Muppets to remember who they represent.

    This Council should be sacked over this fiasco and the ensuing cover-up, and there is plenty of evidence to support this! Future prospective Councillors please step up to the plate for a free kick!!!

    The statements by Bob Law are very sensible, and how I would have expected the Kings Square project process to have been implemented. We need more people like that standing up and scrutinising what is going on – Diana Ryan’s contributions are always welcomed too. If the message is not getting across, it is not just up to Mark and FRRA and I to bang the drums, it’s up to all of us! Get the conversation going.

    Personally, I think there needs to be an external inquiry into not just Kings Square but all property transactions and financial transactions at the City of Fremantle since Brad Petite took over as Mayor. These guys are clearly financially incompetent, but there may be far more than just incompetency at play here, and we are not going to get to the bottom of what is really going on without an external [and wide ranging] audit. Whether that kicks off the need for a CCC enquiry is just speculation, but this would not be the first time in WA history that elected representatives have not behaved themselves.

    There is something seriously wrong with not just our Councillors’ behaviour but the way the City of Fremantle is being both run and exploited. The party focussed politicians should bugger off and learn their trade elsewhere, and take the spin, spin, spin and party inspired politics bull$#!t with them. If any of them were any good they would not need to be on Council in the first place. We need more people like Bill Massie on Council [and hopefully Mark Woodcock will get there too] – people that are focussed on us rate payers and what we need.


  5. Suzanne says:

    The piece in Fremantlereform by Martin Lee, should be compulsory reading by Ratepayers and Residents of Fremantle and surrounds.
    More Importantly it would enlighten Ministers Day and Simpson, who appear to have their heads up their……..oops
    … the sand.

    • Bob Law. says:

      I refer to the comments by Martin Lee in particular and especially to his references to the motivation and behavior of mayor Pettit and Councillors and to their role as politicians.
      In my view local government originally and up until fairly recently was largely free of ideology and politics; certainly no longer.
      It was considered to be free of politics as the role of local government was to be looking after the local needs of the local community; in that hackneyed phrase ‘ roads, rates and rubbish ‘; basic local needs.
      All this has changed so drastically and as Martin Lee says the aim of most if not all councillors in Fremantle is to raise a path to future political careers.
      Most councillors and mayor are there to represent themselves, not the residents and ratepayers, ie. the local community, and see being elected as ‘ carte blanche ‘ to do what they like.
      The current mayor and councillors are ideologically motivated, the mayor especially, in his promotion of his ideas for ‘ sustainability ‘ ( whatever that means ) and he travels to UN conferences regularly to promote his ideology, which is based on the UN Agenda 21 and other later UN ideas and attempts at change.
      In my view the mayor ( especially ) and councillors see Fremantle as a social laboratory where their ideas are attempted to be put into practice, as we can see, ignoring local opinion and needs, the pushing of anti car agendas, attempts at banning plastic shopping bags, almost blanket high density development being promoted, serious lack on maintenance of roads and footpaths, etc. etc. and last but not least and as a consequence of all this long term misgovernment the gross decline of the central city itself.
      There are certain local geographical and social and economic reasons why Fremantle is no longer a ‘ regional centre ‘ as an economic and social centre; social change, population change, urban expansion and the consequent social and economic outcomes drive that; Fremantle itself is no longer a centre of activity; it is a tourist destination and living place, essentially local.
      There is a need for a totally new council responsive to local needs and also as is suggested the role of the Auditor General expanded to include local government ( why is that being opposed? ) and the response by the MInister for Local Government to all this is breathtaking in its arrogance and avoidance of his responsibilities as Minister to ensure that local government operates in the interests of the residents and ratepayers, not as a playground for ideological and political fantasies.

      • Diana Ryan says:

        Hi Bob

        I’m not aware the role of the Auditor General being extended to cover councils is being opposed, per se, or will be, per se, however we are slowly but surely heading towards an election and with the failure of the attempt to reform local govt, this has seen the Opposition pin almost everything related to local govt to that, so….

        Hopefully that won’t be the case, as the unexpected Labor win in Victoria came in part because Daniel Andrews promised no new taxes and to keep council rate rises to CPI.

        Not an unpalatable idea! However, for that to be a solid policy wouldn’t we need to know what the true state of each council’s financial operations were? The analysis that was done, for the purposes of reform, by WA Treasury Corporation seems to have been disputed by quite a few councils.

        There is also the case of what happens to the untied grants given to councils – which according to my old professor at Curtin are now being used to help pay staff wages. I think Freo’s CEO said recently that 60% of the grants it received were untied (as revealed on Roel Looper’s Freo View).

        Any findings the AG makes must be reported to parliament. He is entirely autonomous of the state. It would be about as transparent as it gets, and as said earlier, he would be able to detect concerning situations and keep an eye on them (as happened with Healthways).

        Unfortunately, Mike Nahan’s office has explained that to set the AG up to audit councils would take changes in legislation and the AG determining how much extra money he’d need, that going in to the budget, etc.

        I’d love to see the AG extended to level of “productivity commission” for WA. Labor in Queensland is setting one up. Auditor and productivity commissioner rolled in to one function – now that I’d like to see! He’d be assessing the value of policies/projects before they happen, that way.

        Hmmm.. that’s given me an idea (thanks, Bob!).

  6. Freddie Bau says:

    Mark really great to see the questions you have raised, love the challenge to read and understand more about the whole Fremantle issue. Really makes one think on what’s really going on
    Your about page is great, its honest and open, seems freo could go with a lot more of this.

    Only week or so, ago u promoted 10, 000 visits, now its over 11, 000.

    This whole kings sq issue is really intriguing to watch it unravel. I’m new to Freo so interesting to hear an old Mayors point of view, must of hit a nerve or two, I imagine. The heralds piece on the $ 2.35 million bench is done well

    Well done, look forward to lots more.

    Freddie B

  7. Benjamin says:

    The crazy thing about this whole situation is that we are talking about potentially the most valuable commercial and retail land in Perth. The centre of Fremantle is run down and in need of revamping. This is an opportunity for private investors to be a huge part in the reinvigoration of an iconic area of Perth. If given significant enough freedom within certain criteria set by council and the state government, I suspect that investors would flock to this development.

    The council could take a back seat to this process and sell their assets into the development, then lease back some newly created space suited to their needs while pocketing the rest of the cash for other projects. Instead they are putting themselves and their reserves at risk.

    I’ve kept track of this argument in the papers and blogs. What does tend to be missing is the emphasis on option analysis and the comparison to a base case to assess this proposal against. There should be multiple plans sharing the same assumptions with varied options to quantify the value to the city and its residents.

    I’ll give you an example – a large part of the counter argument is the benefit and value of having a larger library. What would be the net benefit to residents if the library was moved to the outskirts of Fremantle in a larger building with greater parking facilities? What if they leased it rather than owned it? How would that impact the business case?

    It goes on and on and without full transparency, I’m getting the feeling that we will never know.

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