A former National Capital Development Commissioner will tonight issue a wake-up call to the ACT’s community councils and residents groups in a hard-hitting speech that accuses the Barr Government of corrupting due process and being incompetent.
In a speech titled Killing Canberra, Tony Powell AO, will tell the Deakin Residents Association that organisations like it were too good mannered and failed to recognise that they have been drawn into an overwhelmingly political environment.
“The need, accordingly, is to be well-informed, frank, forceful when necessary and to not shirk from highlighting the expedient self-serving attitudes to which Assembly members are prone,” he will say.
“This is a situation that doesn’t occur in the States where such matters are the responsibility of local councils in which their planning committees debate and make decisions on both the setting of planning regulations and the approval of development applications, at public meetings.”
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He will call on them to target the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate and its head Ben Ponton for not doing its job properly.
“It doesn’t carry out necessary investigations into the community needs to be served, the likelihood of adverse environmental impacts, the compounding effects of multiple development approvals in residential and suburban shopping areas and the provision of public transport and public parking availability,” he will say.
Mr Powell will say the directorate’s planning section is chronically understaffed and can only process development applications, which it manages poorly.
“It is unable to draw up master plans for the revival of the Woden Town Centre, nor for Civic, nor for Belconnen,” he will say.
“What is needed is a planning organisation with a core of professional staff of the order of 100, civil engineers, transport planners, town and regional planners, architects, landscape planners and designers, economists, sociologists, project development managers, writers, publishers and public relations managers so as to be in a state of constant engagement with the local community, business and trade interests, and thus dispense with the current practice of heavy reliance on external consultants which is largely unreliable and inefficient.”
Mr Powell believes the directorate has in recent times adopted an “inappropriate attitude of blindly adopting zoning changes determined by the Land Development Agency, which is likely to carry over to both the new Suburban Land Agency and the City Renewal Authority”.
He will also take aim at the National Capital Authority for abrogating its statutory obligations to protect the role of Canberra as the National Capital.
He will point to the transfer of planning and administrative responsibility for parts of the National Capital Open Space System, such as West Basin, and the Murrumbidgee River Corridor at Ginninderra in order to support the joint venture residential development project by the Suburban Land Agency and Corkhill Brothers.
“Even worse are the NCA proposals for, (a) Acton Peninsula to facilitate the sale of national land on the Acton Peninsula by the federal Department of Finance and, (b) the removal of Commonwealth Avenue interchange ramps in order to create saleable properties fronting the Avenue and in order to also supplement consolidated revenue income for the Commonwealth Government,” he will say.
In a wide-ranging attack on the Barr Government, Mr Powell will point to the machinations of the LDA, the use of commercial in confidence arrangements to hide information and the alleged gaming of land release programs to maximise profits as examples of it not following due process.
And the light rail project comes in for particularly scathing criticism.
“The secretive manner in which the Gungahlin-to-Civic tramway has been investigated (including the withholding of development cost information), the fact that it has been committed to construction despite a negative assessment by Infrastructure Australia, the fact also that it is a response to a political threat by the Greens that might have caused a change of government in the Legislative Assembly, and is not a response to valid transport needs, when taken together, in my view, constitutes a corruption of due process and is contrary to good government.”
Mr Powell will also take on the Government’s tax regime and how its policies are forcing people into apartments.
He can be heard at the Deakin Residents Association AGM at the Deakin Bridge Club tonight. Refreshments from 5:45 pm, then Mr Powell’s talk, followed by questions.
Is the Barr Government pushing ahead with development at all costs? Do you think the National Capital is in danger of losing its distinct character? Or is just being transformed into a modern city?