ACT Planning Consultation

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.

7 Smith Street gets the mechanical digger treatment

The demolition team moved in to knock down the Edlington Farmhouse on Smith Street in Weetangera on Wednesday evening. Until 60 or so years ago, the building was part of a large dairy farm but gradually the city suburban sprawl has surrounded it. It’s not a particularly old building – just a working farmhouse – but it is significant, and it gives a glimpse of the area before Canberra spread. When the couple who ran the historic, pre-Canberra Duntroon dairy farm found that much of their grazing land was about to be inundated with the water that would become Lake Burley Griffin, they decided to seek pastures new. The pair – Bill and May Edlington – found those new pastures where the doomed farmhouse now stands. Six decades ago, it was farmland where race horses were raised but today it is classic Canberra suburbia. The Edlingtons’ farm extended northeast to include the area around the present Lathlain and Josephson Streets, Belconnen and northwest into the current suburb of Latham. Canberra Times 16/9/2021

Canberra’s planning not fit for purpose

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Consultation near markets

The block in question is the gravel carpark between the motel and Belconnen Way.

Crumbling memories of the abandoned Hawker Tennis Centre

The Riot Act

Ambalindum Park

A design for the first stage of landscaping around the existing playground in Ambalindum Park has been put together, see the current concept plan below. This plan could possibly be broken into stages – depending on how many people are available to help out. All planting areas will be mulched, edges will be defined inside the design but not on the outside of the design where the plantings merge with the existing park areas. Comments/suggestions are welcome: hawkercommunitygardens@gmail.com

Schools attracting home buyers

For families house-hunting in Canberra’s north, the fastest growing school catchment this year was Belconnen High School’s, which includes the suburbs of Florey, Hawker, Page, Scullin and Weetangera. The next highest performing catchment was Hawker Primary School’s, which includes Hawker, Page and Scullin. Hawker has proven to be a suburb that people reside in for a long period of time. (Allhomes, 28 Nov 2020)

Alroy Circuit in Hawker reflects this popularity. It abuts the school grounds of Hawker Primary and has become an alternative drop-off point as the main entrance on Erldunda Circuit is quite busy at peak times. Local residents have expressed concern for the safety of children walking to school along the road as there is no footpath on Alroy Circuit and many nature strips are covered with shrubs or parked cars, leaving no room for walking along the verge, despite the requirement to leave 1.5 m clear for pedestrians. Children tend to walk along the left-hand side of the road so that they cannot see vehicles approaching from the rear on the same side.

Development Applications Inquiry

The ACT Government’s response to the Standing Committee of Inquiry into Engagement with Development Application Processes has been released.  Our submission to this inquiry is quoted many times throughout the report and the final three recommendations (out of a total 66) are particularly encouraging.  The Government Response to all three is: Agreed in principle:

64. The Committee recommends that the Territory Plan Review consider whether the Merit Track should be changed so that Development Applications are not just assessed against minimum standards (tick and flick approach) but are also assessed on the overall outcome of the development.

65. The Committee recommends that the Territory Plan Review consider the role of simple rules versus flexible criteria.

66. The Committee recommends that the Territory Plan Review rectify the disconnect between the Development Application process, as per the Territory Plan, and key design and character elements that are articulated in master plans, planning refreshes and zone objectives.

To clarify, DAs are assessed under one of three tracks: 

  • The Code Track where the rules are applied;
  • The Merit Track where the rules can be overridden by vague criteria;
  • The Impact Track where the impact of the proposal is significant.

Improving the appeal and amenity of our suburbs

A local resident is proposing to improve the small park on Erldunda Circuit between Ambalindum Street and Woolner Circuit. This would involve applying to the ACT Government for a grant to cover costs. She is seeking ideas and expressions of willingness to help. Current suggestions are:
* Non-native deciduous trees along the existing path, around the swing and the bench, plus landscaping and mulching;
* Landscaped interactive playground behind the bench;
* Existing eucalypt groves underplanted with local native shrubs to form windbreaks;
* Additional seating, i.e. benches or picnic tables.
>>> If you are interested, email your responses and ideas to Frances via:
hawkercommunitygardens@gmail.com

Free Wi-Fi coming

By the end of June next year, about 13 more Canberra group centres will have access to free public Wi-Fi, including the Hawker Group Centre.  As part of this rollout, the download limit is being increased from 250MB to 1GB per day per device to allow people to browse the internet for about 12 hours, stream 200 songs or watch two hours of video. CBRfree public Wi-Fi is already available around the town centres of Belconnen, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Civic and Woden, as well as a number of group centres and community locations including the Canberra Theatre, Belconnen Arts Centre, EPIC, Cooleman Court, Botanic Gardens, Kingston Foreshore, Tuggeranong Basketball Stadium and Stromlo Forest Park.