It’s hard to believe that 14 February 2019 marks 20 years since 400 people rallied opposite the Matilda Bay Brewery in North Fremantle. We weren’t picketing boutique beer makers, we were flabbergasted by Westrail’s plans to turn the Leighton marshalling yards and dunes into a housing development.
We wanted a coastal reserve to protect natural processes and recreational space, and a guarantee of unfettered beach access. Maintaining those enticing coastal views from Stirling Highway was also high on the list for many.
1999 was a frenetic year, when the Leighton-saving community was galvanised. After that first impromptu rally, the campaign soon gathered pace and became all-consuming. You may remember the wall of hessian along Stirling Highway that read: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” It was ripped down every few days, but we got it back, and up it went, time and time again.
Westrail selected the ‘Leighton Shores’ consortium from six tenderers and many were shocked to see what amounted to wall-to-wall housing, with much-reduced public space and limited beach access.
In the meantime, people flocked to a community workshop where an alternative vision took shape. Interest from the media increased, and people came in droves to working meetings and manned our road-show. People from over 100 suburbs use Leighton. Opposition parties began to make helpful noises.