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Permanent Park Home Residents

Extract from Hansard – Wednesday, 13 April 2011

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [5.26 pm]: I applaud the opposition for bringing this motion before the house today. I strongly support the members who have spoken, particularly the member for Mandurah and the points that he has made. I, too, have been lobbied by constituents in Fremantle. Today I would like to raise the specific case of the Fremantle chalet village, which is in my electorate, as the permanent residents are facing special issues and particular uncertainty at the moment with redevelopment on the cards.

The Fremantle chalet village was developed during the America’s Cup yacht series in the 1980s to accommodate the influx of temporary residents to Fremantle. In preceding years, approval was given by the City of Fremantle, which owns the South Fremantle tip site, to integrate long-term residents into park homes. Many people have lived there for more than 20 years. Throughout this period very little regard was given to the health implications of the long-term tenancy on an unremediated landfill site where waste is regularly exposed during site works and gardening. In 2003 a researcher interviewed one of these residents. It was recorded in the Journal of Rural and Remote Environmental Health. The long-term park resident talked about the fact that the residents could not grow any vegetables on the site. She said that when a gas company supplied gas to the homes and started digging in the ground, all sorts of smells and wastes were exposed. People had car bodies and hospital syringes exposed in their front gardens. She said that the residents are very aware that they are the only people in Western Australia living on a landfill site. This has created quite a culture of fear within the residents who live there. They are afraid that if they speak out about the contamination, they may be moved on and put in the too-hard basket.

I have also been contacted by residents about the recent parliamentary inquiry. Four issues came up. One was the issue of eviction without reason that the member for Mandurah mentioned. The majority of park residents in my park are in receipt of Centrelink payments, so they are not wealthy people by any means. They certainly do not have the necessary moneys to pay for relocation. They have no fixed-term leases. I agree with members opposite who have been talking about five-year leases as a minimum. At least that is a starting point. There is no compensation to assist if these people are asked to move on. The rent increases need to be consumer price index controlled. As I have mentioned, many of these residents are on Centrelink payments. They are finding that their rent relief has been exhausted and they have to use pension moneys to top up their rent. This leads to other requirements such as medications, food et cetera being cut back.

I want to give a direct quote from a woman who emailed me in January. She said —

We are desperate for some sence of security … We are permanent residents not itinerants, we own our homes, we rent the land. We need somewhere secure to live just like other WA residents. We paid for our homes believing we were helping ourselves to live independently in a manner that suited our needs and did not place too much of a drain on State services.

She makes a very good point. Life in her caravan park is a very efficient lifestyle. She lives close to the shops, close to South Beach and close to public transport, and she is a very little drain on the state. I saw on the internet today a two-bedroom park house at Fremantle Village for sale at the going rate of $65 000. Clearly, if people have lived there since the America’s Cup period and all they have is $65 000, that will not buy them a house anywhere in Perth. This will therefore create huge problems for these people when they are asked to move.

That brings me to what is currently going on at the site. The Cockburn coast district structure plan is in process, and the Minister for Planning recently tabled in Parliament the metropolitan region scheme amendment. This land covers the Fremantle chalet village. I have made a submission to the government urging it to take into account the residents of the Fremantle chalet village and to not allow the current owner to evict them, which looks like the current plan. The government has two options that would be fair. It could buy the Fremantle chalet village from the owner, remediate it and clean it up to a suitable standard for residential purposes and then relocate the permanent residents there. Alternatively, if the government does not want to do that, it could provide land within the Cockburn coast district structure plan site. There is a very large swathe of land between South Beach and Port Coogee that is currently being developed for residential purposes. There is no reason why the permanent residents from the chalet village could not be accommodated within that land. In fact, residents from other caravan parks around the state could also be accommodated in this very large strip of coastal land that is near public transport, shops and vibrant communities. I therefore urge the government to look closely at this group of residents. Many of them are on Centrelink payments, they do not have options to move, and at best they could sell their chalet for $65 000. That will not buy them a home. In all fairness, the government needs to accommodate them.

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