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Dealing with residents is not easy, apparently

By Paul Costigan - 25 August 2016 14

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Following weeks (or was that months) of questions over land dealings and major developments, and now audits being announced into departmental processes, the Chief Minister has  gone on the front foot and announced an idea to change his government’s methods of consulting on ‘Urban Redevelopment’. It is all about using quotas and not time based methods. (click here)

Many were surprised by this – while others wondered whether it was simply a thought-bubble.

On seeing the subsequent emails in circulation and other comments on blogs, it seems that he has convinced few that his intentions are as noble as he would want people to believe.

And then there is the fact that residents have memories.

Residents remember the public meeting with the Chief Minister in Dickson when he kept going on about young people and that the suburb (his own) was full of older people who needed to leave. His statements on the night were greeted by cheers from members of Young Labor who had been bused in for the meeting.

It was also later revealed that some of the speakers at the same meeting who spoke in favour of the Leader were relatives of property developers.

We remember views that have been reported regularly about how those who have objected to the current land sales and development programs have been deemed as being unrepresentative, being viewed as ‘older’ people and therefore of little relevance. OMG – could this be so? Isn’t Canberra ‘The Age Friendly City’ – as seen on some vehicle number plates.

There is the story about the development of the infamous Dickson master plan. Someone standing in a queue at the bank had the pleasure of listening to a property developer ringing friends to stack those consultations. Surely not!

So when Mr Barr made statements for quotas to be part of future consultations, was he trying (unsuccessfully) to distract from the real issues that are now being reported on almost daily?

What people also suspected was that he was proposing quotas to ensure that developers and lobbyists could have even more more say on planning issues.

Then there is a more serious matter.

There seems to be an increase in innuendoes by certain local politicians and others that once residents get to a certain age that their voices are not important. One wonders how long it will be before they realise that they will soon be in this category? It happens to us all – it is not one of the secrets of life.

The reality is that if residents are in their fifties or retired, according to all the latest stats they may live on for decades of enjoying an active life here in this wonderful city. So why wouldn’t they feel as though they should have a say in the future of their homes, their suburbs and their city?

Over the last few years there has been an unfortunate increase in statements that deem any opposition by ‘older’ residents as being not representative of the ‘majority’. I suggest that that those who make these statements need to check the stats on Canberra’s population. They may find that those they define as the ‘older’ generations are in quite large numbers.

Many residents in these ‘older’ groupings, who remember how their comments, feedback and aspirations have been treated by the current planning regimes, are now approaching the next ACT elections looking to favour candidates who respect others and do not indirectly encourage any form of ageism.

It is timely for our elected representatives to take a mature approach to all the electorate and to acknowledge that the so called ‘older’ residents have a huge range of opinions, aspirations, experiences and expertise that more than qualify them to offer informed comments.

With this in mind I recommend a piece by Clive Hamilton in the Canberra Times – click here.

One last note – The Chief Minister and others often state that the people who raise objections are not representatives of the residents because of the small number of ‘younger’ people present at public meetings. Everyone agrees that Canberra’s younger generations need to be heard. So please stop talking about it and do something about it. Get out there and engage with them. Seriously – no one is stopping you.

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Dealing with residents is not easy, apparently
MareaFatseas 3:32 pm 13 Sep 16

Great article Paul. People most affected by decisions have a right to be heard. So of course it makes sense that residents, whatever their age, will want to have a say about a major development in their neighbourhood. A core value of the Quality Assurance Standard for Community and Stakeholder Engagement (developed by the International Association for Public Participation – https://www.iap2.org.au/documents/item/391) is:
“Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.”
In that context, referring to people who seek to be heard as NIMBYs is neither fair nor helpful in arriving at good outcomes. Any proposal to introduce quotas in consultations needs to bear in mind such internationally developed quality standards for community consultation.
Marea Fatseas, Independent Candidate for Kurrajong

devils_advocate 4:23 pm 29 Aug 16

chewy14 said :

rommeldog56 said :

chewy14 said :

Yes, how dare they try to stack these “community” meetings, Paul and his mates are the only ones allowed to do that. How else can the “residents” make sure that the meetings reflect the true NIMBY nature of the areas in question?

They are the residents group of that area. So, of course they will be attending. Thats not stacking. They were not bused in. Comparing the two is like comparing chalk to cheese.

The are a tiny minority of the residents of those areas and it’s exactly the same thing. Unless you’re trying to claim that these meetings are usually representative of the wider community and their views?

And are we supposed to just believe the author of the article that the young people who disagreed with his position were bused in Young Labor members? And even if they were, how is their views as city residents any less valid than Paul’s? He doesn’t own Dickson or have any specific rights over the area compared to other citizens.

These meetings are never representative of community views as a whole. The fact that the author is complaining about other people stacking these consultation meetings is laughably ironic to say the least.

I can see this is a tough problem. If only there were some discipline, developed over hundreds of years, that dedicated itself to discovering to an agreed level of statistical significance the views held by defined populations using random sampling methods.

But since that’s not the case, I suppose we’re better off guessing.

chewy14 12:04 pm 29 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

chewy14 said :

Yes, how dare they try to stack these “community” meetings, Paul and his mates are the only ones allowed to do that. How else can the “residents” make sure that the meetings reflect the true NIMBY nature of the areas in question?

They are the residents group of that area. So, of course they will be attending. Thats not stacking. They were not bused in. Comparing the two is like comparing chalk to cheese.

The are a tiny minority of the residents of those areas and it’s exactly the same thing. Unless you’re trying to claim that these meetings are usually representative of the wider community and their views?

And are we supposed to just believe the author of the article that the young people who disagreed with his position were bused in Young Labor members? And even if they were, how is their views as city residents any less valid than Paul’s? He doesn’t own Dickson or have any specific rights over the area compared to other citizens.

These meetings are never representative of community views as a whole. The fact that the author is complaining about other people stacking these consultation meetings is laughably ironic to say the least.

rommeldog56 11:45 am 29 Aug 16

chewy14 said :

Yes, how dare they try to stack these “community” meetings, Paul and his mates are the only ones allowed to do that. How else can the “residents” make sure that the meetings reflect the true NIMBY nature of the areas in question?

They are the residents group of that area. So, of course they will be attending. Thats not stacking. They were not bused in. Comparing the two is like comparing chalk to cheese.

chewy14 10:30 am 29 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

JC said :

Paul sounds like you self interest group is getting a decent hearings just because decisions go the other way doesn’t mean they haven’t listened or the process of flawed.

Yes, yes, yes.

The ACT Labor/Greens Govt “listens”. You must have missed the bit in the OP : “Residents remember the public meeting with the Chief Minister in Dickson when he kept going on about young people and that the suburb (his own) was full of older people who needed to leave. His statements on the night were greeted by cheers from members of Young Labor who had been bused in for the meeting.”

A decent hearing ? Yeah, right.

Yes,
how dare they try to stack these “community” meetings, Paul and his mates are the only ones allowed to do that. How else can the “residents” make sure that the meetings reflect the true NIMBY nature of the areas in question?

rommeldog56 7:33 am 29 Aug 16

JC said :

Paul sounds like you self interest group is getting a decent hearings just because decisions go the other way doesn’t mean they haven’t listened or the process of flawed.

Yes, yes, yes. The ACT Labor/Greens Govt “listens”. You must have missed the bit in the OP : “Residents remember the public meeting with the Chief Minister in Dickson when he kept going on about young people and that the suburb (his own) was full of older people who needed to leave. His statements on the night were greeted by cheers from members of Young Labor who had been bused in for the meeting.”

A decent hearing ? Yeah, right.

JC 11:26 pm 28 Aug 16

Paul sounds like you self intrest group is getting a decent hearings just because decisions go the other way doesn’t mean they haven’t listened or the process of flawed.

Masquara 8:27 pm 27 Aug 16

Yep. There will be GetUp-esque “opinion stacking” in favour of whatever developer Andrew Barr has chosen to carry out revenue-raising at the expense of Canberra’s qualities, attributes, amenities, culture, soul etc etc. The latest example of Barr’s tin ear when it comes to Canberrans has been his failed push to extend that Futsal Slab monstrous Westside for three years (presumably so he can pretend that the million-dollar waste is significantly less, by spreading it over four or five years). BTW I drive past WestSide every single day and have pretty much never seen anyone using the place – even during school hols etc!

HiddenDragon 6:14 pm 26 Aug 16

Public comment on proposed developments/redevelopments might sometimes point out practical problems which have genuinely been overlooked by proponents and planners, but beyond that, Government decisions will surely boil down to a balance between the relentless pressure to derive maximum revenue from the real estate/building sector and political calculations about how many votes might be affected in particular parts of the town – so why bother trying to stack or rig public meetings and other consultation processes, when they’re not binding and are just one input to the final decision?

gooterz 8:28 pm 25 Aug 16

Many people wouldn’t know about the meetings

Instead of seeking more people to go they are happy with the stacked meetings they have.

Given we are a largely public service town consultation is harder for those that don’t want much public attention. The views of these people are still important.

Good article Paul

Paul Costigan 5:53 pm 25 Aug 16

Dear Mordd – IndyMedia – actually the North Canberra Community Council (NCCC) now broadcasts their meetings via YouTube. As with many people I cannot always make the meetings – so have been known to watch from afar.

About people with children etc – always difficult but have to note that several of the NCCC executive are jugglers of family and volunteer efforts for residents. I don’t how they do it – but really appreciate their efforts to assist others.

So I would encourage the concept of the ACT Government conducting ‘town hall’ meetings and other such consultations via the internet. It can definitely be done.

Mordd - IndyMedia 3:42 pm 25 Aug 16

They should be online town halls alongside the physical one at the same or different times. Many people cannot and will never attend a meeting in person for a myriad of reasons. We have (half) decent internet, there is no reason this cannot be made way more accessible with not much effort.

madelini 3:31 pm 25 Aug 16

The Dickson residents group is a niche interest group – not that their opinions are invalid, but they don’t represent a large chunk of Canberra. The group seems to be opposed to change, but I highly doubt that anyone bought or rented in Dickson because they love the shopping precinct.

Buying into a suburb does not give you ownership over the common facilities. Dickson is more central than it used to be, and times change. While the planning process has not been perfect on the side of the ACT government, the opposition from residents has not been cohesive or balanced either.

bringontheevidence 10:14 am 25 Aug 16

While I appreciate the effort you put into your campaigns Paul, surely you can see that your interest group isn’t a representative cross section of all Canberrans?

I’m not being an apologist for the Government (in fact I’m more aligned in the other direction), but I am repeatedly frustrated that the views of my demographic (mid-30s, young children, two working parents) or other time-poor demographics are often completely vacant in any ‘community consultation’ process. Attending town hall-style meetings or trying to get to community council sessions are pretty low down on the priority list when you have to juggle kids, work and other commitments, but it doesn’t mean my views are any less important, or any less strongly held than yours.

You accuse the Government of ‘ageism’ by trying to balance the planning and development debate. All I can say is that if you are used to privilege, equality appears like oppression. Personally I think any move that provides more avenues for more people to be involved in these debates the better. Embarrassingly churlish behaviour like shown at the west basin consultation session which you seem to be proud of should, rightfully, have less of an influence in Canberra’s planning system in the future.

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