28 March 2019

Canberra's evolution needs better evidence for the future

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Professor Barbara Norman will discuss whether Canberra’s evolution is worthwhile. File photo.

One of Canberra’s most distinguished urban planning experts says a critical lack of data about our new development is preventing us from monitoring and evaluating huge urban changes, and that data evidence needs to be publicly known and transparent.

The University of Canberra’s Professor Barbara Norman also chairs the ACT Climate Council and will join urban planning Fulbright Scholar Dr Sajeda Tuli, freshwater ecologist, Professor Ross Thompson and health and wellbeing researcher, Dr Jacki Schirmer in a discussion titled Evolution of Canberra: Blessing or Curse? on March 28.

“The scale of change we’re going through in the city is and will be significant,” Professor Norman says. “We are a small to medium-sized city, so it’s important to understand people’s perspectives and what they’re used to and then take that into account in planning.”

Professor Norman believes that many of the ACT government’s policy settings for planning are “about right” as the result of extensive community engagement. But, she says, the problem is the implementation, where we have “a long way to go”.

“There’s a new climate strategy coming, and we’re having a Nature and the City enquiry from the Assembly,” Professor Norman said. “We need to invest significantly in monitoring and evaluation now. That’s critical to understand whether we’re succeeding in implementing our policy sustainably and learning from what we’re doing.”

Professor Norman says it’s hard to tell whether all the new development is being implemented sustainably with value for the future.”If one looks at Northbourne, you can’t tell whether it will all work. We need more urban data about whether we’re making the city more sustainable or not – and how to make adjustments in the future.”

The event will also discuss Canberra’s status as a small city, with a big population of educated, knowledgeable people and a strong university sector. That’s led to our evolving status as a knowledge city, but growth also has environmental consequences, and the forum will look at its impact on our waterways and ecosystems.

Finally, what makes a good quality of life? ACT residents will likely need to adapt to the increased heatwaves, droughts and extreme weather events predicted in our future, and the panel will discuss how the city can respond effectively to that change.

Evolution of Canberra: Blessing or curse? will launch the UnCover Event series. The first is a free public event series taking place at 6:30 pm at The Loft, Duxton in O’Connor. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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michael quirk2:44 pm 28 Mar 19

Could not agree more that Canberra needs evidence based planning. It is a disgrace that light rail decisions and the ACT planning strategy were not evidence based. How long will the politicians, their lick spittle bureaucrats and academics get away with policy framed to meet purely political ends. The Canberra community is the loser financially, socially and environmentally.

I heard these experts on ABC Radio this morning, in an interesting discussion. They were so out of touch with the issues for Tuggeranong at a social, environmental, educational and facility level, I had to wonder how they were considered experts in urban planning.

Then we had the woman from Weston Creek saying the Southside got a lot of extra stuff like Mountain Bike tracks and the new rapid bus services. She needs to understand the 80,000 residents of Tuggeranong are not getting the same level of support as her 22,000 Creeker residents in the Murrumbidgee Electorate.

I recommend the three of them try catching a Bus down to Banks or Theodore and check out the non existent services, zero cultural institutions and lack of public amenities. They can then drop by Lake Tuggeranong and check out algae and water pollution, although they may be able to smell it from Theodore.

Better and open Evidence based analysis for Canberra is sorely needed.

In the 2000s ACT Labor said they were closing schools based on demographic analysis, but the analysis proved over time to be incorrect, poorly researched and politically driven.

Areas such as Kambah lost 3 primary schools and 2 pre schools and therefore young families have stopped moving to the area due to poor education options.

Some Belconnen schools of a similar age and demographic to Kambah that were flagged for closure, got a last minute political reprieve and now are over enrolled with high demand.

We could now have had a much better school environment and education resourcing across Canberra if proper evidence and demographic analysis had been undertaken, not just re-design to meet a pre-determined school closure hit list.

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