9 February 2023

Community being kept in dark on District Strategies, says council chair

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra cityscape from the air

Inner South residents feel frustrated about how the District Strategies consultation is unfolding. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A lack of information and an unwillingness of planning directorate officials to front public meetings is hampering the community consultation for the draft Territory Plan and the proposed District Strategies.

Inner South Canberra Community Council chair Marea Fatseas said that despite the consultation being extended after community pressure from 14 February until 3 March, the community was still being starved of essential information and not able to quiz officials.

Ms Fatseas said EPSDD maps in the planning documents were too small for people to scrutinise but a request for high-resolution maps as far back as November had come to nought.

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A reply from EPSDD sighted by Region says that it is still in the process of preparing higher resolution maps for all nine district strategies.

“I will arrange for copies of the particular maps requested to be made available to you once they are ready,” it says.

But Ms Fatseas said the council had hoped to use them at its public forum on Tuesday night (7 February), and she had even resorted to overlaying one of the maps onto a street directory.

“We’re expected to work with tiny maps to give inner south residents an idea of how they may be affected,” Ms Fatseas said.

“I’ve even managed to get a bit of an idea of the implications by overlaying Figure 36 in the draft Inner South District Strategy over a map from a street directory in less than one day, yet EPSDD hasn’t been able to do it since my original request in late November.

“Clearly, the government isn’t really interested in what residents have to say.”

She said the Have Your Say information session in November at the Narrabundah Community Centre was cancelled because of a power cut but not rescheduled.

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Two pop-up information stalls where people are supposed to provide feedback in Manuka and Narrabundah on 13 and 14 February respectively had also been scheduled in business hours from 10 am to 2 pm when most people would be at work.

Ms Fatseas said the government had been working on this for three years yet could not furnish maps that people could read so they understood how the proposed changes might affect them.

“The complexity of what they’re proposing is massive,” she said.

“They’re asking us to comment on all these things in these little maps that don’t show even the streets and yet they talking about large Future Investigation areas from Canberra Avenue pretty well nearly to Griffith shops being up to three-storey apartment buildings and they’re talking about big areas on either side of Yarralumla and Deakin being up to three, sometimes six storeys.

“People have a right to know what the possible implications may be for them. They realise Canberra’s population is increasing and there is a need for affordable housing, and there should be a genuine process of working together on ways to achieve that.”

Ms Fatseas said the way the consultation was being conducted was unacceptable and went in the face of government promises that it would go to the people to fully explain what was being proposed.

“I’ve tried to work with them through all of this and they’re just trying to manage the whole thing so that they can get minimal community input before the deadline,” she said.

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Such a shocking disappointment. The recommendations put forward by the Standing Committee were sensible, and founded in evidence. Take Recommendation 24) for example. The community needs to retain our right to make a ‘controlled activity order’. The argument that the ACT Gov made that it’s ‘burdened by frivolous ang vexatious’ applications for Controlled Activity orders was found to be a hollow strawman argument (see FOIs below).

The avenue to complain to Access Canberra is incredibly flawed. Evidenced last year, when we made a complaint regarding the Brindabella Car Park on Lyneham Oval and were given a dismissive response with incorrect information and advice, it was a response that may have even been misconduct. The Access Canberra complaints officer who responded to our complaint, was the same person who, in a precious role, had approved most of BCCs DAs and even cited their own previous descision making, in an attempt to justify the existence of the car park on protected public land, and without disclosing the conflict of interest.

In the new legislation, the community has no opportunity to fight to save our protected environmental land. If we receive Ill advice or even a corrupt response, we have no recourse. The ACT Gov goes unregulated and our community safety and our environment pays the price.

Sign our petition to help: https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/e-pet-004-23 (we hope it doesn’t just go ignored by the ACT Gov).

Seriously, though, please follow the links to FOIs regarding the Access Canberra handling of the Complaint and possibly even mismanagement of the protected community land in Lyneham (CMTEDD FOIs https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/2161066/2022-355.pdf and https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/2163040/2022-337.pdf and EPSDD FOI: https://www.environment.act.gov.au/about-us/access-government-information/disclosure-log/disclosure-logs/epsdd-22135476, plus this incredibly alarming old one: https://www.environment.act.gov.au/about-us/access-government-information/disclosure-log/disclosure-logs/epsdd-1928355).

Let’s prioritise transparency in ACT Government please.

Once again the ACT Government behaves as a law unto themselves with disdain for their constituents. This has been going on for years and still they are voted back into power. Much gratitude to Marea Fatseas and the ISCCC for representing our interests in the face of the deceptive practises of the govt.

Why are we having 9 sets of rules. Surely a district has a set of priorities and that should be the same for similar areas be it north or south.
This is basically the government formalising their gerrymandering and pork barrelling.

The libs used to complain about the weird statues that kept popping up.
Now we have multimillion dollar neighbourhood parties funded by the government for which any benefit is long gone.

Mike of Canberra4:03 pm 11 Feb 23

As this article shows, we have now reached the stage in the ACT where our Territory government effectively is placing the population in the mushroom club when it comes to public disclosure, especially in the area of planning. At the same time, this government is showing its sensitivity to its own internal polling by selectively attending to urban maintenance issues that have been neglected for far too long. As with many long-term governments, it displays a combination of urgency and hubris in its administration of the Territory. Urgency? Suddenly roads and footpaths that have been neglected for too long (or at least those most likely to be noticed) are being repaired, something that no doubt is showing up in the government’s internal polling (and by the way, why don’t we get published opinion polls on ACT politics like every other state and territory in Australia? Isn’t our local media up to this task?). Hubris? The fact that this government feels it can exercise a total lack of transparency in key areas such as planning, shows that it takes ACT voters for fools, an impression reinforced by the way we have kept this government in power for close to 23 years despite all its failings. We have the chance next year to change this situation by changing the government. It’s vital we grasp that opportunity.

Stephen Saunders2:54 pm 11 Feb 23

For those of you sitting towards the rear of the class, the “District Strategy” is: crank up population growth and wind back infrastructure and services. That’s why 21st century Molonglo Valley can still be serviced by 19th century Coppins Crossing. For those of you right down the back, the Strategy would be no different, under the Liberals.

The stategy for labor is about getting the right kinds of labor into town. Liberals would be vastly different. I doubt they have the skills to waste that much money that quickly.

Secrecy, obfuscation and avoidance are standard for the ACT government. It’s time they were voted out, but it seems the Canberra population is not up to the task.

Yes indeed. The Dark Art of Planning is fully evident here. Hidden detail through small undecipherable diagrams, tiny unreadable maps and planning information documents full of the current political waffle and weasel words all the while dark hooded figures wander around the peripheral of public meetings and never come into the light.

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