1 October 2021

Gentleman has given up on Gungahlin, says council

| Ian Bushnell
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Planning Minister Mick Gentleman

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has “washed his hands” of the Town Centre’s issues. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Planning and Land Minister Mick Gentleman has been accused of giving up on Gungahlin after again brushing aside continuing concerns about the lack of commercial development and jobs in the Town Centre.

The Gungahlin Community Council’s latest newsletter says the Minister’s response to a letter citing the approval of The Establishment development as an example of the poor outcomes that the planning system is delivering in the Gungahlin Town Centre was utterly underwhelming and showed he had given up.

The letter also called on the ACT Government to take specific and immediate action to adopt a different approach for the Town Centre that will have immediate and positive impact.

The GCC has been pushing for greater planning intervention to ensure more commercial and office development in the Town Centre instead of the high-rise, multi-unit residential creep that is consuming much of the vacant land.

But Mr Gentleman has replied that the federal Liberal Government has no appetite for locating a large agency in the Town Centre and that the government has done all it can from a planning perspective to enable commercial development there.

Gungahlin Town Centre leases

Empty ground floor tenancies in the Gungahlin Town Centre. Photo: GCC.

“Planning levers can only go so far, and without the interest from a significant Federal Government Department, it will be difficult to drive commercial activity in the Gungahlin Town Centre,” he said.

“…The ACT Government’s thinking is that the Gungahlin Town Centre can be a genuine mixed-use area, which has a thriving commercial life throughout the daytime, into the evening, and also on weekends.

“I appreciate that Gungahlin Community Council does not agree with this approach; however, simply keeping the land reserved for commercial activity has not successfully led to large-scale commercial investment in the Gungahlin Town Centre to date and the ACT Government is actively working to find solutions.

“The ACT Government is not able to force people to open a business or dictate locations to people wanting to open a business.”

The response has infuriated the GCC, and president Peter Elford says the Minister is washing his hands of the issue.

He said Mr Gentleman continued to blame the Federal Government and ignored the need to create incentives and obligations to encourage the establishment of employment in the Town Centre, as has occurred in Canberra’s other town centres.

He suggests “the ACT Government’s thinking” rather than its actions will create a thriving town centre, despite the clear evidence that mixed-use in the Town Centre in its current form has not worked, Mr Elford said.

The newsletter is accompanied by photos of the ground floor of the northwest precinct of the Town Centre.

“It’s wall to wall lease signs,” Mr Elford said. “No vibrancy, nothing. It’s just a wasteland at ground level. If that’s what his thinking is like, we’re doomed.”

Mr Gentleman has agreed to be the guest speaker at the GCC’s next virtual meeting on 13 October, and is assured of a hot reception.

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Not exactly a great time to open a business… on top of this…
Rising inequality, land that is too expensive, and rents that are too expensive = no shops

I haven’t been to Gungahlin for 5-10 years. All I know is that everything was so congested there, the Government built them a light rail line into the City.

Gungahlin shouldn’t feel singled out. Mick Gentleman treats all areas of Canberra with contempt. His disdain for the Molonglo Valley, Weston Creek and the Woden Valley has resulted in these areas suffering from dreadful planning outcomes and he continually ignores the needs of Tuggeranong residents, even though that they rewarded him with a seat in the Legislative Assembly. It’s well overdue for him to step up or step out.

Be grateful, Gungahlin. This clown is like a bull in a china shop. When (if!) we ever get a decent planning minister in this Territory, then perhaps what needs to be done will be done properly.

If “Call-It-In” Gentlemen has anything to do with it, it will be yet another disaster.

The lack of an electable opposition party, the impotence of the Liberals and the complacency of ACT voters means that the Greens/Labor ACT government treats all community councils with arrogance and contempt. It does whatever it likes, spends whatever it wants, mismanages and wastes public funds with impunity. This is corruption. Power corrupts and entrenched power entrenches corruption.

The irony with Gungahlin is a lot of the issues which relate to the town centre design, in particular access roads from the suburbs were created by the last liberal government.

Sure current government could have made things better in the town centre, but the stupidity of Flemmington road running into the the main shopping street, having the feeder road from Gungahlin Drive running around one side, Mirrabai drive running into Anthony Rolf running the other side and neither meeting Flemmington road and having that piddly and annoying short road leading from Gundaroo Drive to Crinnigan Cct and having houses on Gundaroo Dr north of Mirrabai were all set in stone by Kate Carnell and Tony DeDominico.

The one thing they did get right, which is why Flemmington Road runs into the shopping street was allowing for light rail in the design.

The headline should just say “Gentleman has given up.” And he did that years ago. What about a significant ACT Government department?

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