These signs possibly illustrate the frustration of local residents about the poor consultation carried out for the development application relating to the duplication of William Hovell Drive. Apparently, normal practice is to place signs on the relevant block. In this case, the only block near William Hovell Drive is Approved Rural Block 1368, which runs from William Hovell Drive opposite Whitlam up to Springvale Drive and the back of Hawker. Notices were sent to all residents backing onto this block but not to the 33 blocks backing directly onto William Hovell Drive near the intersection with Drake Brockman Drive. These blocks were specifically named in the Noise Management Report as being most affected by increased noise levels from the road. Apparently, the DA documents are not read before the DA is publicised.
ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman announced in June 2021 that a new ACT Planning Act is in the making. What input from the local community will there be in this process? Will there be genuine consultation? These are particularly important questions since research from the ANU suggests public trust in government has fallen to an all time low.
In this article, it is argued that public consultation, as practised by the ACT government, is flawed because it is an end-of-pipe exercise undertaken after all policy development has taken place behind closed doors.
This flawed character arises in part from a conception of governance which sees the delivery of public goods as best achieved through the ‘market’: Government provides its services through so structuring competition that market actors realise these public goods for government. Government thus becomes a de facto agent for the private sector. The role of the public service also changes: its job is now to work with private interests in order to secure Government policy goals. So, in any consultation around a new Planning Act, government and its bureaucracy will be de facto representatives of market actors, in this case, developers and the construction industry.
Alternative conceptions of governance and consultation exist. There are a variety of approaches, ranging from those which give real power to the community (collaboration) to cynical manipulation.