I see amendments to the National Capital Plan are due for approval before Christmas. Essentially this will pass greater responsibility for local planning decisions to an ACT government.
Granted there have been two rounds of community consultation on an exposure draft prepared by the National Capital Authority (NCA). Thus, while the final approval will again be buried as so often happens in Canberra while most of us are preoccupied with Christmas, one cannot complain of the process.
Nevertheless the decision has me apprehensive.
This is due to the comments of the NCA’s chief executive, Malcolm Snow, recognising ‘that the ACT government is a mature government’ in planning decisions, a comment I strongly dispute.
Mr Snow perhaps doesn’t have the background experience many of us older residents’ share of successive Assembly majorities and their planning proposals, which owed more to political survival than any maturity in the long-term effect of decisions.
The problem comes back to the restricted fund-raising opportunities of the ACT, only rates and tax revenue and sale of land. Governments naturally are reluctant to increase the former as all voters will be impacted, whereas land sales have a limited local effect.
Currently and still unresolved is the proposal to develop the Yarralumla brickworks and environs, in which as a local resident I declare a major interest.
The 2010 proposal had 900-1100 dwellings ranging from three to four storeys accommodating 2500 people. This was firmly resisted and a petition of 4000 signatures was tabled in the ACT Assembly.
The ACT’s Land Development Agency (LDA) in a Gilbertian response and to the bewilderment of Yarralumla residents proposed another plan in 2014. This increased the number of dwellings to 1600, the height in some sections to six storeys and the population density to 4000 – doubling the number of people living in the suburb. According to the LDA website the 2014 changes were made to obtain the support of the ACT government and the LDA board.
I trust Mr Snow and readers therefore will understand my scepticism from this sorry indeed bizarre example of our ACT planning process which is anything but the behaviour of a ‘mature government’.
The Yarralumla development is an ongoing issue. The problem will be future developments under the new expanded responsibilities.
Like liberty the condition of ACT government planning decisions is eternal vigilance.