News & Media

3 months ago in Council
Fremantle calls on state to co-fund urgent Round House conservation works

Fremantle Council has voted to formally request the state government contribute $500,000 towards urgent conservation works at one of Western Australia’s most important heritage sites.

Last night the council voted to commit $500,000 towards works to improve the safety of the severely eroded cliffs at Arthur Head - the site of the historic Round House - and called on the state government to match that commitment.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the need for state government support to carry out essential conservation works was becoming critical.

“The Round House is Western Australia’s oldest public building and arguably our most important historical site,” Mayor Pettitt said.

“Over the past decade City of Fremantle ratepayers have spent more than $3.5 million on the management and maintenance of Arthur Head and the Round House, but the scope of the works now required to make the Arthur Head cliffs safe after decades of erosion goes above and beyond what would normally be expected of a local government.

“Given that Arthur Head and the Round House are owned by the state and are a place of great heritage significance we believe it is reasonable for the state government to share the cost of these urgent conservation works.

“This will finally allow us to take down the unsightly fencing and scaffolding that has been needed to protect people from falling rocks at one of our most popular tourist attractions.

“At a time when both the state and federal governments have declared their intent to support vital community projects with COVID-19 stimulus money, I am hopeful we will get the help we need to preserve this hugely important part of the state’s heritage.”     

In March 2018 the City of Fremantle closed the Whalers Tunnel under the Round House and fenced off areas at the base of the cliffs in the historic Arthur Head Reserve after receiving advice that overhanging rock could be unstable and posed a safety risk.

The tunnel was reopened after the City erected temporary scaffolding at the western entrance to protect pedestrians in the event of a rock fall.

The City also commissioned geotechnical and heritage experts to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the condition of the cliffs and man-made walls at Arthur Head and make recommendations on how to limit further erosion and ensure public safety.

Those recommendations, including remedial works worth an estimated $1.8 million, were endorsed by Fremantle Council in April 2019.

The works subject to the $500,000 funding request to the state government include reinforcing the western entry to the Whalers Tunnel and the construction a new rock fall canopy, and extending the retaining wall on the eastern side of Arthur Head near the railway line.

The Round House was the first permanent building built in the Swan River Colony and is the oldest public building still standing in Western Australia.

It was built as a jail and opened in 1831, with the Whalers Tunnel added in 1838.

Due to the exposed marine environment, vandalism and well-intentioned but damaging repairs carried out during previous decades the building now requires urgent conservation works.

Arthur Head was substantially quarried between the 1830s and 1960s, which reduced the size of the headland by 60 per cent and left the quarried cliff faces exposed to the harsh coastal environment.