After seven months of silence since the last workshop to discuss the future options for the Dickson Parklands (Section 72 Dickson), the Dickson Residents Group asked for a meeting to ask a range of questions. This meeting happened on Thursday afternoon (23 July).
To our surprise we were told that two sections of the site are now proposed for residential use. We were also shown a notice that was to go the public next week or soon after.
Last year the residents of the inner northern suburbs were very clear about their aspirations for this site and that residential developments were not favoured.
It had been anticipated that there would have been further engagement over the reports from the two workshops held in late 2014.
Instead there has been silence.
Without any warning, a media release has appeared today announcing the change of lease.
Residents who attended the meeting were not told that this media release was being circulated the very afternoon as we met with the directorate officers.
This is not a good example of community engagement as set out in the ACT Government’s own community engagement policy.
This latest move by the chief minister’s directorate has come as a sudden shock to the resident groups involved.
Residents are again being provoked into having to respond and resist proposals affecting the future of this valuable community asset.
As has been outlined in submissions to the government, as the rest of the surrounding suburbs undergo intensification, the Dickson Parklands site will be even more required as a site for a mix of cultural and arts facilities.
There is no other site like this within the inner northern suburbs of Canberra. Once it is lost to development, it will be gone forever as a community cultural site.
The Dickson Residents group had hoped that the chief minister had learnt that the residents of the surrounding suburbs are wanting to and were looking forward to working with the planning and development agencies to enhance this important inner north site.
The community vision was for:
- a linear parkland
- a community arts and cultural precinct
- a peaceful refuge of landscaped green space based around the existing woodlands and creek line that provided a green corridor connecting the urban hub of Dickson to the more outer suburbs in north Canberra and our surrounding mountains (people already use this site for this purpose, and it is likely that this opportunity will be cut back with the proposed residential development)
- a community resource that would have become increasingly important as the shape and form of the inner north changes in response to the light rail and the infill needed to support it. (The parklands would be accessible to the whole community, rather than segmented by private land and residences and the cars and traffic that will necessarily come with 200 plus residences).
Sadly the community’s aspirations have been totally ignored by the chief minister and his directorate.
All indications are that the chief minister and his directorate wish to provoke the residents – yet again.
With the coming 2016 ACT elections, residents are hoping that this matter can be resolved quickly. It would be unfortunate for this insult to be the basis of election debates, especially in and around Dickson where the chief minister is hoping to be re-elected to represent this community and its aspirations.