Unique WA power generation history worth saving

Published in The West Australian, Page 42 (Opinion), 17 September 2022:

It’s easy to say the neglected 71-year-old South Fremantle Power Station in North Coogee is an eye sore.

It’s easy to say bulldoze it, replace it with something new and shiny, find another way to remember this rare facility’s unique place in the power generation history of Western Australia.

It’s easy to say it’s all too hard, too expensive to realise the potential of this unique Art Deco industrial building on the shores of Owen Anchorage in North Coogee, fronting popular C. Y. O’Connor Beach, nestled between multimillion dollar Port Coogee marina homes and DevelopmentWAs award-winning Shoreline residential precinct.

But as the giant painted street art that popped up adjacent to this landmark building in June 2020 emphatically states, IT’S FOR US.

Let’s not forget that this compelling building is one of only four cathedral-style power stations in the world and the only one located in a coastal setting, with idyllic Indian Ocean and island views for miles.

This grand piece of history should indeed be for everybody. According to Heritage Council records it was the largest power station to be built in WA and the first in the State to house major power generating equipment specifically designed to generate alternating current at the Australian and British Standard Frequency of 50 Hz.

If the State Government can commit millions to the remediation of the East Perth Power Station site to enable private enterprise to transform it into a residential, commercial, recreational and tourism drawcard, why not the much-loved, equally iconic South Fremantle Power Station building?

The City of Cockburn appeals to the State Government to make this a project of State Significance, to enable the coordinated approach of its expert agencies to help it come to fruition, giving Perth and WA another reason to feature on the international tourism stage.    

We admit it’s a big job, but since when did that stifle the drive and creativity needed to realise the triumphant rebirth of some of the nation’s and the world’s, most iconic landmarks?

Think of The Rocks in Sydney, Liverpool’s docks, or the Art Deco Battersea Power Station in London which is due to reopen this October after closing 40 years ago. Google it – it’s on the cusp of becoming an exciting retail and leisure destination with more than 100 shops, bars, restaurants, office space and venues. 

For many years the City of Cockburn has lobbied on behalf of this incredible asset and the community that holds it dear.

That community includes many who live around Cockburn and the southern suburbs – they and their relatives either built it, worked there or walking past it on daily beach forays for decades.

This is a one-off opportunity to realise its huge potential as a key regional employment hub creating more than 800 jobs, generating 9,500m2 of retail and commercial floor space, and potentially delivering more than 700 dwellings.

The Cockburn Coast stretches from South Beach to Port Coogee. Ultimately it will rejuvenate 98 hectares of former industrial land and become home to some 12,000 people in 6,000 homes over 20 years.

Let’s do WA a favour, not a disservice, and commit to realising the cultural and architectural promise of this cavernous, inspiring light-filled monolith before too much longer. – City of Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett.        

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City of Cockburn
Whadjuk Boodja
9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

PO Box 1215, Bibra Lake DC,
Western Australia, 6965

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Cockburn Nyungar moort Beeliar boodja-k kaadadjiny. Koora, yeyi, benang baalap nidja boodja-k kaaradjiny.
Ngalak kaadatj dayin boodja, kep wer malayin. Ngalak kaadatj koora koora wer yeyi ngalang birdiya.

City of Cockburn acknowledges the Nyungar people of Beeliar boodja. Long ago, now and in the future they care for country.
We acknowledge a continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.