26 May 2023

Planning review consultation Listening Report didn't listen, says community council

| Ian Bushnell
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Mick Gentleman and Ben Ponton

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and Chief Planner Ben Ponton: Weston Creek community feels they are ignoring its views. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A community council has called into question the ACT Government’s commitment to consultation on the planning system review, slamming the recently published Listening Report as inaccurate, misleading and skewed towards the organisers.

Weston Creek Community Council has demanded the report be withdrawn and re-written so it accurately reflects community views.

The government ran a community engagement program for the draft district strategies and the draft Territory Plan between 1 November 2022 and 3 March this year.

The Listening Report is supposed to summarise the feedback received, and the government will provide responses in a consultation report.

WCCC Chair Bill Gemmell said may people had put a great deal of effort into providing submissions and contributing to a public meeting held on 30 November with planning officials including Chief Planner Ben Ponton and four MLAs.

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Mr Gemmell said they were looking forward to reading the Listening report but were bitterly disappointed with the result.

Not only were there factual errors about the meeting, such as stating it was only online and that the number of people attending was unknown, but the section on “Economic access and opportunity” stated “No significant feedback was received”.

Mr Gemmell said this was incorrect and, given the wide section of the community the council canvassed, was “insulting and misleading”.

“I’m talking about people who are engaged in the community and actually working in these various fields and understand it,” he said.

Mr Gemmell said the council provided summaries to the planning officials and other Weston Creek feedback outside of the council was also submitted.

The summaries covered a range of issues including revitalisation of local shops, mixed-use opportunities, education and training, service cluster, IT upgrades and parking.

“The overall tone [of the report] felt dismissive, at times vague, ambiguous, and with a clear bias towards the Review organisers,” he said.

“The poor quality of that report, and the fact that taxpayer funds were spent on that highly subjective report is just outrageous.”

Mr Gemmell said the council took pride in talking to as many people as possible across the spectrum to get a good sense of what the community feeling is.

“We put a lot of effort in getting people’s views and get summarily ignored,” he said.

“They seemed to have decided what they’re going to do anyway.

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“We’ve put significant effort into this for a considerable amount of time and we’ve hardly shifted anything.”

Mr Gemmell said others outside of Weston Creek were also disappointed with the report.

Discontent about the government’s approach to the planning reforms has been simmering for some time.

It is not the first time that the government has been accused of working towards a predetermined outcome.

Inner South Canberra Community Council Chair Marea Fatseas said last month that the government was giving lip service to community consultation but not changing substantively what it was already planning to do.

She was referring to the government’s response to a Legislative Assembly committee’s recommendations on the draft Planning Bill which it hopes to pass before the end of June.

The committee will also inquire into the draft Territory Plan.

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I agree. Despite comprehensive representation, there is almost zero inclusion of consideration for our Ngunnawal heritage in the report. It’s disappointing.

HiddenDragon7:55 pm 27 May 23

The “review” is about dollars and dogma – like most of the things which actually matter to the ACT government.

There was never going to be anything even remotely resembling genuine consultation on this subject and the best that community participants could realistically have hoped for at the end of the process was politely condescending dismissal of their unwelcome views and a suggestion of the need for “education” (a favourite brush off/cop out when ACT officialdom is confronted with flaws and contradictions in their plans).

Same old same old. Every time they say they will listen and act on community concerns, they neither listen nor act in any way other than the way they originally planned.

I think its called a ‘tin ear’. The language used in the report down plays many of the serious issues raised as ‘misunderstandings’. This is patronising in the extreme as many of the more sophisticated responses could see quite clearly what was intended. No comment needed on the influence of the Chief Minister in this.

Listen why , the out come is already determined

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