Planning and Development in the ACT – what’s going on?

Rebecca Vassarotti MLA 15 March 2018 7

Is it just me, or are others struggling to respond to the many discussions that the ACT Government is trying to have about planning and development in the ACT?

The Government is clearly keen to talk to the community about the future of our city. They are inviting us to share our thoughts on ideas such as urban villages, increase in density along Northbourne Avenue and new uses for urban land. It’s pretty hard to get traction though, when this is occurring at the same time where there seems to be hostility towards parts of the community, reports of hostility towards the traditional media, and all the time uncomfortable questions continue around previous land deals. This convergence is creating confusion and undermining an important conversation we need to have about the future of our city.

Clearly, the government is feeling the heat in relation to explaining what occurred through the controversial land swap between the Government and the Tradies Club in Dickson. While eyebrows were raised at the early suggestion that ‘there was nothing to see here’ after the release of the Auditor General’s report into the deal, we are now being presented with new justifications for why the deal went ahead. This week, the Chief Minister has suggested that the deal was all about community facilities and social housing rather than revenue. While the idea of putting a Common Ground homelessness project on part of the land that these deals were part of (Section 72) has been occurring for some time, it is hard to imagine that the whole area would be given over to community facilities and social housing. This ongoing saga again highlights the need to get an Independent Anti-Corruption and Integrity Commission up and running as soon as possible. It strengthens the case for ensuring that this body has powers to look retrospectively at issues that are still in the public interest – an ACT Greens’ call that is currently being resisted by ACT Labor.

The current situation also demonstrates that there is a need to rebuild the trust of the community and create confidence that our planning processes have integrity and are being made in the public interest, rather than for vested interests. Without this, it will be increasingly challenging to have meaningful conversations about the city’s future – a conversation that the Government is clearly trying to have with the community, and one that is important for us all to engage with.

Canberra is always evolving – it is a different place to what it was 105 years ago and 50 years ago, and this is not a bad thing. As we head towards the mid-century, our different lifestyles and different challenges as a community mean we must adapt and shape the city differently. Our preferences and expectations mean that most of us want very different housing options to those of our grandparents – and our grandkids will probably want different things too. The challenges of climate change mean that we will need to modify our habits and be open to new ways of living including increased density in parts of the city. As we continue to struggle with the issue of housing affordability, we need to think creatively and innovatively about ways we can ensure everyone can have a place to call home.

This discussion of the future needs to be framed by an understanding and a shared view on how we change and adapt while retaining the character of the city that we love – the livability which makes it such a great place to live and means that we are different to Australia’s larger cities.

For all the talk of new engagement models, it’s hard to see how we can have these big conversations about values and aspirations in the current climate. It’s difficult to reset the discussion around the future built form of ACT without adequately dealing with the issues of the past and rebuilding the trust. It’s difficult to have meaningful and respectful conversations when groups in the community interpret the Government as saying that their views are less valid than others. Its almost impossible for communities to respond adequately to conversations occurring around local development when the sheer volume is overwhelming and happening in small chunks and without the articulation of the vision we are working towards.

I think its time for a reset. Let’s take a breath and work out what our aspirations are for our city in the long term. Then we can work together to make it a reality. What do you think?

Rebecca Vassarotti is an active member of the ACT Greens and ran as a candidate in the 2016 Territory election.

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7 Responses to Planning and Development in the ACT – what’s going on?
Wing Nut Wing Nut 8:20 pm 03 Apr 18

Clearly not much.

beardedclam beardedclam 1:24 pm 19 Mar 18

I had a read through the documents relating to the northbourne corridor community consultation recently. It seems fluffy and ldealistic but very hard for a “commoner” to fully digest and understand. I have a thorough knowledge of the content however, the way it is written and presented seems to get the reader lost in its fluff. Stop talking crap and be straight so the majority of the community can put it in their own context to have a greater understanding on what you are actually proposing. Seems like it might just be to tick a box.

bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 10:34 am 17 Mar 18

What is the Greens policy on the additional land tax levied on rental properties?

    Rebecca Vassarotti Rebecca Vassarotti 12:42 pm 29 Mar 18

    I am sorry I missed this query earlier. In principle, the ACT Greens do support taxing investment properties, as long as it is fair, and helps the provision of affordable housing. If you want further detail regarding the full platform on housing and affordability, it is on page 43 of the ACT Greens policy it outlines the position on housing

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 8:54 pm 29 Mar 18

    You may wish to advise the party to get some advice on the real economic implications of the additional land tax on rentals. It’s a policy that has the effect of substantially lowering the net yield on investment properties while not impacting capital gains. It literally makes capital gains (and hence speculative investment) the only source of return for investors, and discourages investment in affordable rental properties (i.e. the missing link in between social/community housing and first homebuyers). It also ensures that Canberra will never benefit from institutional investment in affordable housing.

michael quirk michael quirk 6:56 pm 16 Mar 18

The discussion about Canberra’s development is hindered by the absence of an up to date metropolitan policy an infrastructure plan.

Hopefully the upcoming ACT planning strategy review will provide this context. The review needs to be evidenced based and not a collection of platitudes about sustainability and liveability masquerading as a plan.

The relative priority of the alternative development areas need to be identified. Setting such priorities requires a detailed assessment of housing demand involving analysis of the likely number of dwellings required to accommodate expected population growth, how much of the demand is likely to high, medium and low density and the merits of alternative locations in meeting this demand.

Determining the priority of supply locations requires consideration of employment location, travel time, the likely demand for housing in the alternative locations, the environmental impact and the infrastructure capacity and upgrading necessary.

The review needs to be adequately resourced if it is to provide a sound basis for Canberra’s future development.

BadDad123 BadDad123 10:54 am 15 Mar 18

You will never get consensus on planning. There are too many “experts” with wildly differing views out there. Remember that some people though a style literally called ‘Brutalist’ was going to change the word!

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