21 October 2020

Infill battle looms as Labor awaits negotiations with Greens

| Ian Bushnell
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Aerial View, Drone, Weston Creek, Houses

Development and green space remains a hot issue for Canberrans. Photo: File.

ACT Labor and the ACT Greens are headed for a showdown on key issues before sealing their governing partnership, including the level of infill development in the ACT.

The Greens’ big showing in Saturday’s election will give it more leverage than before but Chief Minister Andrew Barr, pre-warned with accurate polling predicting their success, has laid out his party’s position on infill and the phase-out of gas infrastructure.

The Greens went into the election with a policy of 80 per cent infill and 20 per cent greenfield development but Mr Barr was quick post-election to say that was weighted too much towards development in Canberra’s established suburbs.

“People have rejected open slather development but they haven’t voted for no new suburbs,” he said.

“The balance of infill, exactly how that is delivered, is something that needs to be talked about.”

It’s an issue that excites many different sectors of the community, with residents in some suburbs worried about what densification will mean for them, some are demanding more land releases and stand alone family homes and others clamouring for a more diverse and cheaper range of housing styles.

The Greens want to limit urban sprawl and conserve habitat but Mr Barr, keenly aware of the Liberal line of attack during the election about Canberrans being forced to look for cheaper housing across the border, still sees scope for growth.

He also believes there will have to be trade-offs for such a contentious issue.

”I don’t think it is possible to have more infill, less high rise and more greenspace,” he said. ”There will have to be trade-offs there. No doubt that’s going to be a feature of the first 12 months of the Assembly.”

Mr Barr also did not expect the price of land to fall substantially but suggested there were ways of getting more affordable blocks to market.

He implied that the housing industry would have to start providing a greater range of product, including smaller more affordable homes on smaller blocks – the missing middle between apartments and standard homes

”We build big, expensive houses in Canberra and that is a factor in affordability,” he said.

Mr Barr said there was agreement that the planning system needed to change and that all three parties will have to find common ground during the upcoming planning review.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: Canberra’s houses are too big and expensive. File photo

He suggested this may include simple changes such as increasing setbacks, so buildings are not too close to boundary edges, and reviewing plot ratios and the level of density on blocks.

For those who are locked out of the housing market, the Greens proposed a $450 million program of social housing but Mr Barr believes the gulf between them over the forward program of work is not so great, although finding the land will be a challenge.

On the question of gas, Mr Barr said Labor did not want to shame anyone out of the fossil fuel but he supported a transition away from it.

He also said there needed to be investment in electricity infrastructure before the gas could be turned off.

”We’ve got to get our big battery in place and electricity infrastructure upgraded before making big inroads in terms of a shift away from gas,” he said.

He even suggested the ACT could inject bio gas generated from waste into the network to lower emissions.

While the Ginninderry development is gas-free, other new suburbs continue to connect gas and offer homes with gas appliances, despite Labor making it optional and having a phase-out policy.

Labor committed $150 million during the election to a sustainable home scheme, providing interest free loans for roof-top solar panels, household battery storage and hot water heat pumps.

ActewAGL is also offering rebates to upgrade gas heaters to electric.

Mr Barr believes the government can address cost of living concerns, also on the Liberals’ list, by helping households to lower their energy needs, saving them thousands of dollars a year.

The Greens need to consult with party members before entering into negotiations with Labor about their partnership in then next Assembly.

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George Watling5:43 pm 07 Nov 20

This is why the ACT Green’s are traitors to the environment and urban sustainability movements.
The ACT Green’s have supported over the top urban infill of existing suburbs and the micro block development of the entire Molongolo Valley from the start.
They are not protecting anything.
Building over the woodlands and grass lands of the Molongolo Valley and bulldozing 10s of thousands of exiting homes that have trees and gardens around them to build as sea of townhouses and apartments is destroying biodiversity in the ACT and creating massive heat islands that will force thousands of ACT residents to run their air-conditioner for longer at higher settings when the use of air-conditioning is a know contributor to global warming. The ACT Green’s they are science and policy free zone.

michael quirk7:42 pm 22 Oct 20

Labor and the Greens have the opportunity to re-examine their urban development policies to determine the right balance between established and greenfield areas.

They need to consider whether a restriction on greenfield releases in the ACT is meeting housing preferences especially those of households with children; whether it is increasing house prices; whether it is actually increasing sprawl by leading to increased car dependent development in regional NSW; whether the restriction is resulting in reduced land sales and rates revenue and population related Commonwealth grants.

They should also investigate the relative servicing and environmental costs of development in new and established areas including the extent of spare capacity remaining in existing areas.

They should also investigate the potential to disperse employment to the newtowns to reduce travel and whether light rail remains an appropriate strategy given the increase in working from home and the rapid improvements in electric vehicle technology.

There still seems to be untapped potential land that should be released in places like Coree, Uriarra (ACT), Stromlo, Kowen, Majura, Paddys River, Kenny etc. The lack of land releases is one of the reasons that people are buying across the border for a cheaper price with freehold titles instead of leasehold. It’s not like Hong Kong or London where there needs to be infill because of the lack of space and high density population. The Greens also advocate for open borders, yet it contradicts their environmentalist and sustainability stance. A contradiction of environmentalism and the socialism adopted from the global green-left movement since the original premise of the Tasmanian logging protests.

Anyone that thinks the Greens are an environmentalist party hasn’t been paying attention.

rationalobserver9:43 am 08 Nov 20

Just a shoutier shade of red than Labor.

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