Fiona Carrick has returned to the helm of the Woden Valley Community Council, heartened by a good showing as an independent candidate at the ACT elections in Murrumbidgee and still with fire in the belly about the need for better planning in Canberra.
Without a party machine and only family and friends to help her, Ms Carrick cached her profile as a champion for Woden into 3,783 first preference votes, higher than eight elected MLAs.
With a few more resources to get her name known outside her Woden stronghold and voters being more savvy about the Hare-Clark system instead of sticking to the party line, Ms Carrick believes she may have got across the line.
It probably laid a good foundation for another tilt in 2024, although the public servant and WVCC president says four years is a long way off.
Ms Carrick decided to run out of frustration with the direction of planning in Woden where high-rise residential development is booming without seeming regard for where the thousands of new residents will meet, work, play and do business.
”I want to fight the good fight for our community,” she said, pointing to what she sees as short-termism and complacency from government, as well as a lack of ambition for Woden, Weston Creek and the Molonglo Valley.
”There is no vision for where we will be in 10 or 20 years in the south. Woden Town Centre is the major central hub for the south. Where will it be in 10 or 20 years’ time without a great place for people to gather, a sense of inclusion and belonging?
”We want to make sure we have an inclusive community that people want to be a part of and I don’t see the planning is facilitating that.”
Her election campaign and results showed that people were concerned about how urban infill is unfolding across Canberra, she said.
”The message is that people want better town planning that balances the homes, the jobs, the public spaces, the community facilities to create somewhere great for us,” she said.
”Let’s build but let’s guide the private and public investment so that we get places where people want to be.”
Ms Carrick is sceptical about whether the increased Green presence in the government and Assembly will actually lead to better planning outcomes, accusing them of being missing in action when a 24-storey building on the edge of the Woden Town Square was approved.
”Where are the Greens on this?” she said, saying she was concerned it will just be more of the same.
Ms Carrick will build on her election experience to again take up the cudgels for the Woden community, saying a line in the sand needs to be drawn over the high-rises that threaten to overshadow the Town Square and render it useless as a business and recreation space.
”Why put them on the perimeter of the Town Square and overshadow it so we don’t have any great meeting places, a heart, a hub, a soul,” she said.
The proposed Woden CIT may seem like a done deal, but Ms Carrick still believes it is sited in the wrong place, as is the new community centre ”across the drain”.
The election also broadened her experience of other areas such as Weston Creek and Molonglo, where similar planning issues are happening.
”The lack of facilities in Weston Creek and the zoning for Cooleman Court leaves a lot to be desired,” she said. “It’s going to end up without a great community heart to it.”
But with 25 high-rises on the horizon and 10,000 new residents in Woden, the community there will need an advocate to ensure outcomes that they can live with.