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Berry lays down law on public housing sites, meetings

By Charlotte Harper - 5 April 2017 6

Residents queued to attend last week's WCCC meeting. Photo: Supplied

ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry said today that recently announced locations for public housing precincts in Weston Creek, Woden Valley and Molonglo were locked in, and suggested concerned residents should focus their efforts on learning about the program and providing feedback on the size and appearance of developments.

Ms Berry said the use of six sites was not a matter for consultation – “in the same way that hundreds of other sites each year are selected for new and improved public housing developments”.

Speaking ahead of a series of potentially heated community meetings this week about the contentious public housing proposals, Ms Berry said she was focused on ensuring that “everyone had an opportunity to learn about the proposed developments – whether they are residents of the suburb who want know more about public housing, people who support the developments or neighbours who want to input into the physical aspects of the proposed developments”.

“To achieve this the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce is providing individual sessions where residents will have the opportunity to ask all their questions and provide their specific feedback about the designs, size and scale of the projects,” she said.

“This individualised approach is not possible in a meeting with hundreds of people.”

Community outcry about proposals had been exacerbated in recent days by an ACT Government decision to bypass a key community meeting on the issue, with the matter to be discussed at an event at which Public Housing Renewal Taskforce staff will appear in Woden tonight, another at which they won’t in Chapman tomorrow night, and at a series of consultation sessions at which they will in Weston Creek on Saturday.

Last week, a meeting of the Weston Creek Community Council at which taskforce was scheduled to appear to discuss the developments was cancelled due to an overwhelming attendance.

More than 250 people attempted to join the meeting at the Weston Raiders Club. Organisers had to cancel due to fire safety regulations, and had planned to call a new meeting at a larger venue, but late last week the taskforce informed them that its members would not attend a rescheduled meeting.

The arguments given for non-appearance were that “persons supporting the proposed development may not be heard in a public meeting” and that there was “concern that taskforce staff may not be treated with respect and that there may even be abuse”.

Ms Berry defended the taskforce’s position on protecting staff.

“Meetings that are poorly organised and managed that result in unconstructive and disrespectful engagement do not provide an opportunity for all members of the community to express their views and have meaningful input into the planning and design of the new public housing developments,” she said.

The Weston Creek Community Council said it viewed the decision as “a form of disenfranchisement of the Weston Creek community”.

A spokesman for Ms Berry said the taskforce had offered on the night of the original meeting last week to organise and host another meeting for Weston Creek residents at a more suitable location and provide a facilitator to ensure all views could be heard.

“This was to be in addition to the already planned upcoming consultation events, which included a presentation to the Woden Community Council on April 5, a drop-in information session about the Monash sites on April 7, a drop-in session for the three Weston Creek sites on April 8 and two drop-in sessions for the Mawson site on April 10,” she said.

“The Weston Creek Community Council declined this offer.

“Given the amount of consultation already happening during this short period, the taskforce was unable to commit to an extra consultation event at short notice. Instead, the taskforce offered to attend another Weston Creek Community Council meeting at a time after the already planned consultation events to present to the council. This offer is still open to the council if it would like to accept it.”

Shadow Minister for Housing Mark Parton said the fact that taskforce members would not attend the rescheduled meeting was “a shameful rejection of meaningful community consultation”.

“Minister [Yvette] Berry is running scared in Weston Creek,” he said.

“If the taskforce cannot engage with residents then the Housing Minister should front up and defend the Government’s position on housing developments in the area.”

A spokesman for Ms Berry said the Minister had flown interstate today and was away until Friday at an education ministerial meeting, making it impossible for her to attend either tonight’s meeting at Woden, or an “emergency meeting” of residents in Chapman set for tomorrow evening.

“Minister Berry has spoken to members of the community and has undertaken to meet them in person soon,” she said.

Residents of Weston Creek have been invited to attend tonight’s Woden Valley Community Council meeting at the Canberra Southern Cross Club at Woden at 7.30pm, where the executive director of the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce, David Collett, is scheduled to discuss the proposed public housing developments from 8.40pm.

Concerned residents of Chapman, Holder, Wright and neighbouring suburbs will gather for the “emergency meeting” of the Weston Creek Community Council tomorrow at 7.30pm at Chapman Primary School, Perry Drive, Chapman.

Residents can also book online to attend consultation sessions relating the developments at Holder, Chapman and Wright at the Weston Creek Community Centre this Saturday, April 8, between 11am and 2pm.

Resident groups have expressed concerns about the lack of early consultation on the proposals and the inappropriateness of sites selected by the ACT Government.

Chapman resident and social scientist Dr Chris Braddick said extensive canvassing of local residents indicated 98 per cent were opposed or strongly opposed to the proposed development on Darwinia Community Park in Chapman.

“Following the 2003 disaster, their strongest concern relates to the intensified bush fire threat that would inevitably result,” Dr Braddick said.

“This and the other development proposals are not even consistent with the ACT Government’s own policies.

“The so-called ‘salt and pepper policy’, especially this kind of ‘silo development’, has been entirely discredited by experts in the field based on decades of Australian and international experience.

“It’s a short sighted reaction to a crisis of the Government’s own making that will do irreversible damage not only to our community, but to the lives of existing public housing tenants.”

Dr Jodie Beitzel, a leader of the Holder Community Action Group, said she and other members of the community welcomed public housing tenants.

“The Holder site proposed would not integrate public housing tenants into the community in a considered way supported by evidence, and also has serious traffic safety and access issues,” Dr Beitzel said.

“We’re also concerned about the lack of nearby government services, employment opportunities, and good public transport needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

“The development would destroy Holder’s green space, important for the health and well-being of the Holder community, including any incoming public housing tenants.”

Kristine Riethmiller, spokesperson for the Wright Residents Action Group and semi-retired businesswoman, said a common concern in the Wright community was the potential loss of the only block of land planned for community use.

“Every other block of land is filled with, or about to be developed for, housing,” Ms Riethmiller said.

“Many residents feel a sense of betrayal by the government who promised that the dense housing development in the new suburb would be supported with a central community facility.

“There will be no church, community centre, child care or indoor recreation space; just houses and apartments.”

Ms Berry’s spokeswoman said the Government had carefully considered all six of the community facility-zoned sites recently announced as part of the public housing renewal program and believed they were all suitable for the purpose they had been identified for.

“The use of sites in established areas provides an opportunity to include public housing in established communities and this is balanced against other possible uses for the sites,” she said.

In response to a question about fire safety of the Chapman site given it had previously been deemed inappropriate for use as an aged care facility due to fire risk, she noted that residents of aged-care homes had a number of particular access requirements which were different to public housing properties.

“Public housing tenants have many different needs,” she said.

“Housing ACT (with assistance from community service organisations) will select the tenants on the basis of their suitability for this particular type of development in this area.

“Housing ACT works closely with all tenants who are being relocated as part of the program to ensure they have access to the support they need when they move home.”

The spokeswoman noted that the proposed development would require development approval and would need to meet all of the relevant building standards applicable to the site.

“Consideration is being given to the design to ensure it meets any bushfire-specific requirements,” she said.

Details of tonight’s Woden Community Council meeting at the Canberra Southern Cross Club at Woden are here.

Details of tomorrow night’s Weston Creek Community Council emergency meeting are here.

Residents can book online here to attend consultation sessions relating the developments at Holder, Chapman and Wright at the Weston Creek Community Centre this Saturday, April 8, between 11am and 2pm.

Members of the Weston Creek community will also be at Cooleman Court Shopping Centre this week with petitions for public consultation to be signed.

Pictured above are Weston Creek residents who had hoped to attend a Weston Creek Community Council meeting last week at which members of the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce were scheduled to discuss planned developments in Holder, Chapman and Wright. The meeting was cancelled due to fire regulations when more than 250 people turned up. Photo: Supplied

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6 Responses to
Berry lays down law on public housing sites, meetings
1
wildturkeycanoe 9:39 pm
05 Apr 17
#

I am trying to work out where this “Darwinia Community Park” is actually located. Is it the one bordered by Darwinia Terrace, Kathner St and Percy Cr.? If so, I can understand why people are upset, when you consider they are sitting on million dollar properties which will lose a lot of value with a block of multi story public housing slapped next door. Not only the stigma this development will bring, but the views from the existing residents will be ruined.

This is nothing though, when we get a statement like above from the minister, saying that they have made their decision and nobody can change it. This seems to be the modus operandi of the ACT Labor government lately, to announce a development and offer public consultation, despite them having already rubber stamped the commencement of construction. This is what I am trying to convey about the FOY fiasco in Hume. Who said it can’t happen there too? Who are the elected representatives representing? Apparently not the ACT community.

2
A_Cog 9:42 pm
05 Apr 17
#

Voters in Murrumbidgee could have voted out Barr’s ALP instead, but they chose to return the ALP and vote in a Green.
6 months hence, we learn 1,300 public housing flats on Northbourne will not be returned to the area (maximising the CFMEU’s profit on their residential developments). Barr and Rattenbury turf out hundreds of vulnerable people in Kurrajong, marooning them away from jobs/services/transport. And where are Chris Steel or Bec Cody from Murrumbidgee in this? Caroline Le Couteur?
Silence

3
bigred 10:38 pm
05 Apr 17
#

I find it amusing that the Weston Creek Community Council, probably the most non-consultative and unrepresentative of the community councils, is complaining about the government failing to consult. I think Yvette Berry has actually got it right by clearly stating the range of consultation she is prepared to entertain.

I am expecting the Thursday night meeting will attract the same bunch of retired public servants who attended the cancelled meeting. Their agenda is clearly to protect the property values in their little enclaves of homogeneity, as evidenced by some of the attendees at the cancelled meeting openly saying there should be no public housing in the ACT, because that was Queanbeyan’s role.

Surely it cannot be that bad having a few public housing premises in the neighbourhood? Or can it?

4
chewy14 6:06 am
06 Apr 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

I am trying to work out where this “Darwinia Community Park” is actually located. Is it the one bordered by Darwinia Terrace, Kathner St and Percy Cr.? If so, I can understand why people are upset, when you consider they are sitting on million dollar properties which will lose a lot of value with a block of multi story public housing slapped next door. Not only the stigma this development will bring, but the views from the existing residents will be ruined.

This is nothing though, when we get a statement like above from the minister, saying that they have made their decision and nobody can change it. This seems to be the modus operandi of the ACT Labor government lately, to announce a development and offer public consultation, despite them having already rubber stamped the commencement of construction. This is what I am trying to convey about the FOY fiasco in Hume. Who said it can’t happen there too? Who are the elected representatives representing? Apparently not the ACT community.

Yes, it’s the one on community facility land, that has always been slated for development and for which they are following all correct processes and allowing members of the community to comment on the development applications.

Unless you think living in the area somehow gives you special rights as to who else can move in?

Although at least these NIMBY’s have tried a fairly unique tactic in claiming the development will somehow be a bush fire risk preventing them from escaping their homes despite the fact that their is a road entering and exiting the area literally metres away.

5
GCS14 9:31 pm
06 Apr 17
#

A_Cog said :

Voters in Murrumbidgee could have voted out Barr’s ALP instead, but they chose to return the ALP and vote in a Green.
6 months hence, we learn 1,300 public housing flats on Northbourne will not be returned to the area (maximising the CFMEU’s profit on their residential developments). Barr and Rattenbury turf out hundreds of vulnerable people in Kurrajong, marooning them away from jobs/services/transport. And where are Chris Steel or Bec Cody from Murrumbidgee in this? Caroline Le Couteur?
Silence

If you had been paying attention you would have known that 1. The Northbourne flats would be sold for development. It was a requirement of the federal Government’s asset recycling program. Had they been retained and redeveloped we would have missed out on the 15% bonus. 2. People who are being moved out of housing that is being demolished are given the choice of where they would like to go. Some choose to remain in the city. Others choose to go elsewhere.

Finally why would any of those politicians you named be required to take the side of NIMBYs with pathetic excuses as to why they aren’t NIMBYs over pubic housing tennants. If the residents (of Holder) had paid attention they would have noticed that the empty block was slated for development for a long time, and was zoned for public housing. Perhaps they should feel lucky that it’s taken this long.

6
wildturkeycanoe 7:15 am
07 Apr 17
#

chewy14 said :

Yes, it’s the one on community facility land, that has always been slated for development and for which they are following all correct processes and allowing members of the community to comment on the development applications.

That block is zoned “Community Facilities”, which as far as I can determine according to the most recent zoning regulations [dated 19th August 2016] cannot have general public housing built upon it, only housing for the disabled or elderly in an adaptable housing configuration. What makes you say it was always slated for development? Can any government representative here show me how they can legally contravene their own development policies? If there was an amendment to the planning guidelines to change the criteria for use of CFZ land, was that process inclusive of the community, the ones who are most immediately affected by its outcome?
Can they also provide a reason why their consultation process is not taking into consideration the views of the community, or indeed why they have already made their decision on the purpose of the development before consultation was even started?

The feeling in the areas where tensions are rising seems to point to a distinct lack of communication and consideration. This is a disturbing trend that our elected representatives are taking – making decisions that are financially beneficial for them but not necessarily supported by or in the best interests of the residents. Development applications seem to be no longer a process of mutual decision making but rather of leaders lording it over the constituents. Surely continuation of this behavior will bring about the demise of the Labor party’s success in Canberra. There is no better way to cheese off people than to stop listening to them.

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