Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has announced the “forestry development” of Pierces Creek will not be rebuilt. (See the ABC story for the short and sweet version.)
The 13 homes at Pierces Creek were destroyed in the January 2003 bushfires.
In his press release, Mr Stanhope explains that to rebuild a 12 or 13 house settlement would be, in the government’s view, unsustainable. The government originally came up with a plan for a 50 house settlement but the National Capital Authority said this was too big.
“When it became obvious that such a proposal was unacceptable to the Commonwealth, the ACT Government put forward a compromise proposal for a settlement of 25 to 30 houses â€” far from optimal, in terms of sustainability, but still vastly preferable to a 13-home enclave of public housing,” the Chief Minister said.
â€œThe National Capital Authority has consistently refused to budge from its 13-home ultimatum. At no stage has it offered even the prospect of compromise. It is obvious that the NCA never wanted Pierces Creek to be rebuilt and has put obstacle after obstacle in the path of ACT attempts to find a solution that could see residents return to their beloved settlement and pick up the pieces of their lives. ”
Arthur Kenyon, chairman of the NCA, told The Canberra Times there had been no impediment for the ACT Government to rebuild the homes at Pierces Creek so the residents could return. (Which was not contradicted by Mr Stanhope — he said the NCA didn’t want a bigger development).
Mr Kenyon said, “I am perplexed and confused that if the 13 houses were economically, environmentally and socially sustainable for 30 plus years why are they unsustainable today?”
Mr Stanhope said he wondered “why the NCA takes such a keen interest in an area of the ACT that is 30km from the Parliamentary Triangle and that is invisible from practically anywhere else in the Territory”. (Interestingly whereis.com was unable to enlighten me as to the whereabouts of the settlement).
ACT Liberal housing spokeswoman Jacqui Burke, not wanting to be left out of the bunfight, put out a release demanding that Mr Stanhope tell the public what the government’s plans now are for the site and “what is to happen to the remaining family occupying the only property left standing at Pierces Creek”.
Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, who approached Prime Minister John Howard before Christmas about the plight of the Pierces Creek residents, remains silent on the decision.