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Canberra’s continuing planning fiascos

By 54-11 - 19 April 2010 4

The recent case of the Quayside apartments (ACAT overturned ACTPLA’s approval of a clearly non-compliant DA) shows that the ACT planning system is still totally dysfunctional.  It’s worth spending a few minutes to consider why we continue to have case after case overturned when they get to the appeal stage.

Firstly, both main parties are driven by external imperatives.  Developer donations, for example, have been proven to be corrupting influences, whether by individuals or systemic.  Both ALP and Libs are very dependent on developer donations.  They are both also very captive to particular constituencies, for example the ALP to the construction unions, and the Libs to developers’ peak bodies.  The Property Council of Australia’s ever-strident Catherine Carter continually pushes for totally unbridled development, and non-capped population increases.  Unbelievable .

Secondly, ACTPLA (and its predecessor, PALM) are incapable of learning from past experiences.  This is particularly so under current CEO Neil Savery, who spends more time defending his dysfunctional organisation than he does in fixing it’s myriad problems.  Part of these problems stem from the fact that they operate in isolation, away from the community and various representatives who can provide valuable input.  In today’s Crimes he spent more time attacking the ACAT’s decision than he did in talking about improving ACTPLA’s performance.  The ACAT used some quite strong language, showing it’s increasing frustration with ACTPLA decision-making.

Finally, government, planners and developers participating in the planning process have worked assiduously over the last several years to remove any form of community participation in that process.  Corbell banned the Local Area Planning Advisory Committees, replacing them with the ill-fated Community Planning Forums (I said at the time these CPFs were designed to fail, and as expected, they did).  Corbell then reneged on his word (which isn’t worth a cent) to re-establish the LAPACs if the CPFs failed.

The president of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) said on 31 March 2010 at the National Press Club:  “To the development industry and state government [by this he includes Territory] planning officials who believe planning can be done by the application of a simple checklist… you are living in la la land.  The problem when developers and other levels of government talk about planning reform is that they always start from a position that community involvement… is bad and it ought to be curtailed.  State [and territory] governments have been captured by a development industry… running a smear campaign against community involvement in planning.  We [ALGA] strongly believe that communities have a fundamental right to have a say in how their neighbourhood develops”.

So there you are, Savery and ACTPLA, the recipe for success laid out for you.  Do you have the balls to do anything about it, or are we going to continue to be plagued by dysfunctional decisions relating to a dysfunctional planning system, administered by a dysfunctional planning authority run by a dysfunctional Chief Executive.

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4 Responses to
Canberra’s continuing planning fiascos
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Buzz2600 5:51 pm 20 Apr 10

Jimi, you’ve got a business to run and clients to keep happy so more power to you… even if CIC is big enough and ugly enough to defend themselves.

However, some niggling questions remain ….how did ACTPLA approve a clearly non-compliant development application in the first place? Why did CIC submit a clearly non-compliant development application? Sure, CIC is probably run by a bunch of really nice guys but do they not know the rules? Are they in the right business? Who’s steering this ship? What other structural atrocities will be imposed upon us for a very long time to come if no one pulls ACTPLA and developers like CIC up?

Across Australia and the world, property is big business and there is money to be made. Don’t kid yourself, its not about it being ‘fashionable to bag developers’ its about upholding a system of regulation based on transparency and integrity and it seems that we’re a long way from that at the moment. Congratulations ACAT for having the guts to shine a light into a very black hole.

astrojax 12:48 pm 20 Apr 10

However, this might actually make me more qualified to comment than some.

being able to use a keyboard [not necessarily very well] and signing up to riotact makes you simply as qualified as anyone to comment here, jimi..!
; )

but good to hear a story on the side of the (portrayed) bad guys for once. that said, that cic might be trying to be good corporate citizens is still to be read within the context of their being a business entity, so needing to make profit, and nothing about any of this speaks to whether or not the planning regulations and practices in canberra need an overhaul.

JimiBostock 10:37 am 20 Apr 10

While many of your points in the article are pretty true, I think the Quayside issue is troubling.

Now, I do need to declare that I used to do a lot of work with Canberra Investment Corporation, having done all of their website development work between 2004-2009. However, this might actually make me more qualified to comment than some.

The most pressing and central issue is that Quayside was approved and ready to go. I know that cause I was there on the day and immediately tasked with getting a holding website up and running (clients and their timelines:)

So, CIC was entitled to get on with the development.

We must remember that they were, from that moment, shelling out sheckles. Heck, there was me to pay for a start and you know what us web people charge like 🙂

So now they have the rug pulled from underneath and left high and dry.

I fail to see how that can be a good outcome.

Funnily, the general anti-developer tone of the post and the general inferences about developers, which through this being about CIC does imply that it relates to CIC, is in contrast to them as I came to know them.

First, I can not count the amount of hours I worked with CIC to come up with ways to invite feedback from communities using online tools. I certainly never felt that the discussions were other than serious and about getting input. I certainly know how much money CIC spent on this and there would have been cheaper and less effective ways to do that.

So, the implied charge of CIC being disinterested in community input is so wrong. Indeed, one of the things I found personally rewarding in working with CIC is their geniune desire to engage with indigenous communities as stakeholders in a number of the CIC developments.

In a broader sense, and I don’t want this to sound like an ad (but that is not going to stop me defending a good company and good people), CIC is a very concentious developer. They do care about making communities that people would love living in. Now they did not need to pretend with me. They could have just said they were creating crap developments and I would have worked out how to make them look ravishing (at least in the online space).

I would also quickly add one thing. I remember when I worked on the rebranding of CIC from Canberra Investment Corporation to CIC Australia. This was about reflecting that this Canberra born and bred company had truly conquered Australia. I can vouch for that after many early morning (why does CIC always start so early) plane rides.

I think that CIC has not been given enough credit for what they have done around Australia and I know that I would prefer them to be developing in Canberra over a lot of other companies. I can understand if they concentrate on other parts of Australia. That would be a bummer.

So, ready to be flamed about this but I have a right to defend people I know and I am not prepared to stay silent because it is fashionable to bag developers

Jimi Bostock
PUSH Agency
Brisbane | Canberra | Sydney | Australia

cranky 5:18 pm 19 Apr 10

A very arogant example of the way these turkeys do business was detailed in the Consumer Voice section of Sunday’s Canberra Times.

A couple going through the (in this case troubled) process of having a deck approved were required to pay a fee of $478.22 to ACTPLA for the pleasure.

Somehow, ACTPLA were able to debit $4065.22 from the applicants credit card.

It took 21 days to repay the couple. What hope do we have of any improvement in this bureaucratic nonsense?

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