With the NCA moving to hand over significant planning powers to the ACT Government, the focus now shifts to how the ACT Government handles such an increase in responsibility for national aspects of this capital city.
I have long held the view that the ACT Government should have far more control over much of the land now zoned to be under the auspices of the National Capital Authority (NCA) – on behalf of the Commonwealth.
As the NCA makes the right moves in having areas re-designated, the onus moves to the people of Canberra to require their government to work out how to handle these extra responsibilities that will have national as well as local significance.
I could imagine the developer bureaucrats within the LDA/directorate having committee meetings to calculate how much extra money could be made by selling off any or all of these extra plots of land now within their portfolios. I hope this is not the first reaction to these planning opportunities.
But before I progress, a comment about press statements from our local senator. Senator Seselja is quoted as having linked this to opportunities for affordable housing and the future of the town centres.
Housing affordability remains an urgent matter that is not getting anywhere near the real attention it deserves by his government – the Commonwealth Government. To link this planning change to that slogan is just spin. Canberra used to provide for many and very diverse housing options – what went wrong? Maybe the senator could spend more time exploring that question.
As to the future of the town centres, especially Tuggeranong, it will take many more changes than the possible release of land west of the centre for the Tuggeranong Town Centre to be given a new lease of life. For one, it would help if the Commonwealth (his government) stopped cutting jobs in the public sector – it would help if the ACT Government actually took some positive initiatives to place tertiary institutions in and around the Town Centre as well as to initiate other cultural and community activities in the area.
And it would help if the government, with or without the help of the senator, ensured that the housing being built close to the centre was not more bland boxes but were aesthetically pleasing and were linked to a high standard community facilities and parklands.
I digress – so back to the NCA’s announcement.
There are real opportunities here for the ACT Government to change its planning regimes and to mature into a government that cares for the future amenities of this capital city – a city where people are passionate about the quality of our urban areas – and about safe-guarding our urban forests – all those fabulous trees.
These changes could see the ACT government recognise the achievements of former successful local and national planning ideas and marry them with a new vision for a capital city of the 21st Century.
It would be timely exercise for ACTPLA to publish a visionary planning document on how the government is to embrace these new responsibilities. This vision should enhance the many aspects of the bush capital with new styles of architecture, an approach to redevelopment that addresses climate change and one that delivers a range of housing options and more parklands and open spaces. That is, a vision that includes many of those things that could make Canberra different from the other major cities.
I would implore the government to avoid the infamous international models of development now being plonked into some of our other cities, whereby the skylines become filled with star-architect towers and residents have to move further and further away from the centres of the townships due to rising costs in the costs of housing.
In particular I look forward to see what ideas the ACT Government comes up with to redevelop those two buildings at the foot of Anzac Avenue. Their redevelopment is well overdue – and this government’s solutions will signal, will be a litmus test, to just how they make use of creative thinkers on this one.
Those two buildings have been neglected for too long and are in danger of becoming an eyesore. The challenge is not just what they end up being used for – but how they are revamped or redeveloped (or whatever) to become attractive and aesthetically pleasing structures that will add to the views up and down Anzac Parade. And please do not chop down more trees – plant even more!
Let’s be positive – for the moment at least – and wait to see how the ACT Government handles these all new planning opportunities.
In ACTPLA we trust? Well – maybe.