Friday, May 30, 2008

Fantasy Island

While the conservative elements pour scorn on the development of the Perth waterfront, it would seem that the likes of Troy 'Sniffer' Buswell are prepared to consider the construction of a whacking great island off the coast at Rous Head in North Fremantle.

The $10 billion project which would bring a touch of Dubai to the West Coast has been snubbed outright by Carps, but some factions among the Libs reckon it's worth a look.

Now I know The Perth Files has been banging on of late about how Perth City needs to connect to the river, but I'm not suggesting that we uproot the CBD and plonk it down mid-stream! That stretch of coastline at North Freo has already undergone its fair share of jiggery-poke to meet the needs of the Port and residential development and any further incursion into the sea poses the risk of forever damaging some of our best metropolitan beaches.

Does anyone else remember that only a couple of years ago a trip to Leighton meant keeping an eye out for large chunks of concrete and limestone debris being hurled at you in the dumping shore break?

Yeah, well it's all good now, but start dicking about with the shape of the coastline once again and who knows what sort of shore we'll end up with... not that the cashed-up elite sipping G&Ts on their island decking hogging the views of Rottnest will give a toss.

I do believe the outcome we've seen in Mandurah is a case in point - very nice for those that do, but 'thanks for coming, but don't let the door at the fish 'n' chip shop hit you on the arse on your way home'.

First things first - let's get some sensible development happening on the Perth waterfront and then maybe we can take a look at Gilligan's Island. And it's worth remembering that our kids will be researching retirement village options long before the first concrete slab on a proposal like this is even poured.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Lucky Shag...

I had an interesting chat over the weekend about all this waterfront development hoo-ha with a bloke from the UK who knows a thing or two about tourism and the creation of city entertainment precincts.

We first caught up some months ago, both stretched out on a large tract of grass in the midst of well heeled Claremont watching our kids play cricket.
When conversation on the subject of gout drew to its painful conclusion, we turned to another topic of much angst - how boring Perth is.

I asked him his views on our fair city, having lived much of his life in the throbbing metropolis of London, and his answer went something like this:

'The day after I arrived I wandered out of my hotel, across Langley Park and took a long walk along the river. And you know what I thought, why would anyone want to change this, it's spectacular!

"I did the same thing the next day and again, couldn't understand why they wanted to change the waterfront.

"The following day the excitement started to wane just a little. After a week I looked out of my hotel window and decided, bugger it, I'm bored shitless and I went in search of somewhere on the river where I could grab a coffee and some breakfast.

"That's what led me past the entirely uninspiring bell tower, onto the Barrack Street Jetty and into... no way, you're taking the pish... The Lucky Shag".

We both chuckled over this, checked to make sure our kids weren't hitting each other with cricket bats and then mused on what could be done. Before too long the Sunday morning gout was playing up again, the kids were pouring 'raw' Milo down their throats (sponsor) and it was time to fire up the people mover for the trip home.

We agreed to talk further over a few beers at Perth's premium waterfront entertainment spot, The Lucky Shag... who knows, we might just get lucky!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dig up the lawn now!

I was sitting in the small room the other evening, perusing my local press, when a letter to the editor caught my eye headed up 'Disneyland effect not worthy of Perth'.

Hello, hello, I thought, here's another one of the 'get up early, go to bed early' brigade having a whinge about the proposed ferris wheel. And sure enough, that's exactly what Tony G of Mount Hawthorn targeted in his ill informed tirade.

Now, the idea of a ferris wheel on the Swan doesn't exactly light my candles, but then I don't think this whole issue is about a ferris wheel - it could be a giant model of a dog t@#d and it would still make the same point... the Perth foreshore is as boring as bat faeces and hardly anyone ever uses all that "beautiful, wide open space" as Tony writes.

This ferris wheel is all about plonking something large and distracting into an area that is grossly underutilised to make people sit up and think, 'crikey, maybe we could make better use of that space?'

You see, us Perthites suffer from a rare and degenerative condition know as 'Lawnis-idioticus'... in common terms, a desperate need to install large tracts of lawn at the front of our homes that run from the front door to the road and are rarely used except for parking purposes.

Take a run through leafy Floreat or Wembley one day and you'll get the picture. These days the disease is on the wane, but only because greedy developers are cramming as many dwellings as possible on what were once single home blocks.

But while new homes aren't infected with Lawn Fever, the minds of our good citizens still are and they will do all they can to protect these patches of turf that may as well be painted concrete for all the good they're worth - at least concrete doesn't suck up rain and groundwater at a rate that makes your eyes spin.

So what's this got to do with Perth City? Aha, you see just as our suburbs were infected with this disease, so was the city itself. Langley Park and all those other parks that stretch from the front door mats of our city buildings, right down to Riverside Drive and beyond, to meet the uninspiring concrete retainer wall at the Swan River, are our city's front lawn.

Sure, a few office workers wander down there to eat lunch... there's a few games of softball hosted over the weekend, but tell me, when was the last time you made use of the city's front lawn? Did you stand there half cut on Australia Day, draped in the Aussie flag, tapping your toes to 'You're the Voice' while you watched barges catch fire on the river?

Our city waterfront is a joke. Sure, as Tony writes 'we have one of the world's best views from Kings Park', but Tony, it's only a view - how long can you stand there looking at the Perth city skyline before you think, 'oh well, back to the suburbs, there's the lawn to be watered...'

I want a city that I can use. One that connects me to the river in a meaningful way. I would enjoy that view a damn site better if I was right next to it, enjoying a good meal or a few drinks with friends, excited about being in the city... not embarrassed about the fact that the only place we can go riverside is at the old Swan Brewery, or The Lucky Shag.

If Perth City was a meal dished up to Gordon Ramsay, his retort would no doubt be, "F*&@'s sake, what is this shit".

Tony, you ask 'Why is there this notion that Perth is not as good as other cities?' Well, that'd be because it's not. Take a stroll around Northbridge at 1.00am, or a leisurely jaunt along Murray Street one day. Better still, try St Georges Tce after close of business hours - see what I mean? No, it doesn't look as good as it does from Kings Park does it? BUT IT COULD!!!

Melbourne has a river that you can almost jump over and they do things better than us. In Brisbane it was only a few years ago that outside dining was considered a crime against God and yet they do it better than us.

So Tony, don't worry about the freakin ferris wheel, just try and consider that if we've got that much open space sitting around doing nothing, then maybe it's time we got a bit creative and dug up the front lawn once and for all.