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The extra fingers in Canberra’s planning pie

By Rebecca Vassarotti 5 April 2018 21
Planning

Are too many actors having their say on Canberra’s planning initiatives?

There is a lot of talk about the ACT planning system at the moment, with questions being asked about whether we have the balance right, and who is driving the agenda for the development of our growing city. One issue that doesn’t often get a lot of attention is the connection between our local planners and decision-makers and Commonwealth agencies, particularity the National Capital Authority (NCA). This is an issue that perhaps needs more scrutiny – given this extra layer of planning bureaucracy seems to be having a greater influence in the shape of major projects and initiatives for the city.

Planning in Canberra is complicated because living in the nation’s capital means we have the extra responsibility of being a steward for a city that belongs to all Australian citizens. How we have managed these two roles has changed over the years. It’s certainly very different to the golden days of the NCDC, where there was no local government taking a role, and this one Federal Government agency was in control of the planning of the city – designing roads, building suburbs, planting trees and maintaining the city.

These days we have the local planning agency, overseen by the ACT Government; and the NCA to ensure that planning and development in this town takes into account its role as the nation’s capital. While the general perception is that the NCA is only responsible for what happens in the Parliamentary Triangle, its influence is far greater – with responsibility for the National Capital Plan, special areas including Kingston foreshore and the city centre and for main avenues and approach routes – meaning that the purview of the NCA stretches right to the edge of our city, much further than many Canberrans are aware of.

With current planning processes, the influence of the NCA is becoming more obvious. Take for instance the current consultation occurring around the City and Gateway Urban Design Framework. Working with ACT Government, the NCA is proposing a pretty radical overhaul of Northbourne Avenue, including potentially increasing the population by around 37,000 over a 25-year timeframe (a little under 10% increase in the ACT’s current population). At this stage, it is unclear about whether or not this is the only chance our community will get to provide input for the plan, with current information suggesting that parts of the plan will go straight to being considered as a variation to the National Capital Plan, with other parts potentially being subject to further discussion with the community.

We are also starting to get a picture of how this dual system may influence future planning projects. It is becoming clear that Federal parliamentarians are interested in having a say in our planning affairs. The NCA is overseen by a Parliamentary Committee and major projects can be referred to Parliamentary Committees. Last month, Canberra Liberal Senator Zed Seselja signaled that he would push for such a committee to scrutinise the second stage of Canberra’s light rail network prior to it going to the Senate – something that is needed due to the fact that the route is proposed to go through the Parliamentary Triangle. No matter what you think about the light rail proposal, it’s worth reflecting on why a Committee of Federal Parliamentarians, many of whom don’t live in this city fulltime, will be able to shape the city’s major transport infrastructure proposals in the future.

This is all highlighting the importance of us as a community demanding that we have a range of opportunities to have a say in how this city grows and develops. I think rather than being hostage to multiple layers of government and administrative control which can play into the hands of developers, Canberra’s citizens need be proactive in this discussion. It’s time for us to start paying more attention to the work of the NCA and to ask questions regarding how this connects with our local planning processes.

What do you think?


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21 Responses to
The extra fingers in Canberra’s planning pie
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ChrisinTurner 1:29 pm 13 Apr 18

It is a pity coordination with Infrastructure Australia is not being pursued. $billions of Federal monies are being handed out for public transport throughout Australia but nothing for the the ACT, because we have gone for Light Rail which IA says is “unsuitable” for Canberra.

actcyclist 12:04 pm 10 Apr 18

I’ve been thinking about the many developments coming up and generally how Canberra is being badly developed (Wright/Coombs is a disaster), building work is everywhere and clearly some developers are making a killing out of contracts granted by the government.

Andrew Barr is so pro-developer I suggest we replace him with the CEO of Geocon and save ourselves a pay-packet..

Despite the fact I’ll be leaving Canberra in a few years to retire, I care because it’s a shame to ruin a unique city.. But I wonder if a lot of the decision makers have homes outside Canberra, or plans to move away; and that affects decision making? Maybe some of our politicians merely see Canberra as a stepping stone to greater things elsewhere too?

    chewy14 7:43 pm 10 Apr 18

    I know, it’s such a shame that we’re stuck with this government which the public clearly don’t support and there’s no type of periodic “vote” where we get to decide whether they remain in government or not……

oh_ 11:12 pm 09 Apr 18

The NCA is a mixed blessing. On one hand it has restrained some aggressive or god awful developments like turning the lake edge into Hong Kong. On the other, it rubber stamped CSIRO selling off Ginninderra to plug cuts to research, distorting local land release planning. Plus the airport being privatised in 96 and on Federal land was able to skirt ACT planning laws and build the business parks which hollowed out office demand in town centres and buggered up the roads, foisting fix cost onto ACT taxpayers, hastening necessity for things like $288m Majura Parkway. Yes we got a new terminal, but we paid for it.

Kristen Skinner 6:34 am 06 Apr 18

It should never be best practice to plan and build development like Gungahlin and Molongolo valley without improving and building roads to service them. In fact, developers should have to pay into that pot before the first earth is moved.

    Adrian Fui Fui Moy 10:10 am 10 Apr 18

    You do know that the only land developer now is the Government?

    Kristen Skinner 2:17 pm 10 Apr 18

    Adrian Fui Fui Moy in name only.

    Adrian Fui Fui Moy 5:19 pm 10 Apr 18

    Kriso Hadskini Incorrect. The ACT Government shut down the greenfield land development industry in the ACT when they formed the LDA (now SLA) to develop all land themselves - they do all the subdivision development now, other than a small amount at Denman.They now only sell separate building sites within their own suburbs to individual builders with no integrating of sites together.

JC 6:32 am 06 Apr 18

The classic example of the NCA interfearing for mostly political purposes was their decision to force the GDE route that we see today. That forced change put to government in conflict with save the ridge which delayed the project for years, increased costs and gave the local Libs political mileage they wouldn’t have had had the road been built the preferred way.

Looks like Zed trying to do much the same with stage 2 of light rail. Which BTW I am on record here saying I don’t agree with, but it is not up to Zed and co to help he local mates out to try and stop it.

    chewy14 2:12 pm 06 Apr 18

    Not this again.

    The NCA didn’t “interfere”, they were the appropriate planning agency and the ACT government tried to force them to accept a different alignment than what was preferred to suit their own political needs. The ACT government were the ones trying to play political games.

    The ACT government are solely responsible for the delays and extra costs because they didn’t do their due diligence and failed to adequately consider all the issues.

    And if Stage 2 of the light rail needs NCA approval, then the ACT government needs to ensure that they go through the appropriate processes for approval, not try to ram through something unsuitable because they want it.

    If I’m building a house, I don’t get to complain if the planning agency legitimately rejects my proposal and then blame them for delays and costs.

    JC 2:51 pm 06 Apr 18

    Not this again.

    Government chooses its preferred route federal government interefered for no reason other than politics. The western route would have been better for everyone and would have avoided the conflict with save the ridge.

    The ACT government was well within their rights to go for the alignment they chose and yeah guess feds in their rights to reject it. But when it is for political reasons that is nonsense.

    And that seems to be what Zed is going on about here. Only interested in political mileage. The only question for the feds is does it comply with planning rules, not the route or need.

    chewy14 1:55 pm 09 Apr 18

    This is simply incorrect and the record clearly shows that you’re wrong.
    The local Government announced their preferred route (for political purposes) without fully investigating and engaging with the stakeholders and the planning agency.
    It was pure politics that they tried to ram through an unsuitable route and we’re rightly sent back to the drawing board.

    My house example is exactly the same, they can blame no one but themselves.

    And yes, the Feds don’t set transport strategy in the ACT, and should be looking at how the light rail fits in with the planning rules. But then again, from the government’s own reports, the light rail isn’t a transport project, it’s a city redevelopment project with a transport component and the NCA should be looking closely at how it affects these important areas of our city.

Mike of Canberra 10:28 pm 05 Apr 18

Steve Young in his comment has claimed that there was no consultation on the tram. When reminded that this was the central issue at the last election, he blames the opposition “or lack of it”. What a cop out! It was very clear to anyone who would listen at that election that the Liberals not only would have scrapped the tram but would have applied the savings to easing our rates burden. They even had an alternative for addressing congestion on Northbourne Ave that would have been more practical and miles cheaper than the tram. But Canberrans, Steve presumably included, rejected this decisively. Steve, it was a clear issue and the alternative was there. If Canberrans, including you, choose to ignore that, then “cry me a river”. Unless and until Canberrans grow up politically, we will continue to have white elephants such as the tram foisted on us, while paying sky high rates, charges and other imposts for the pleasure. Either vote for change when you have the opportunity or stop whingeing about the consequences of effectively maintaining a one-party state.

Gabriel Spacca 10:00 pm 05 Apr 18

Transparency. That’s all that’s asked for. If you make a decision then explain how it was reached. Consultation is not just “we let people tell us what they want”. It’s actually listening as well.

Wing Nut 8:55 pm 05 Apr 18

Can we get back to basics and ask “do we have a planning system” cause from where I’m sitting it looks like a series of random train crashes.

Bellinda Cini 5:29 pm 05 Apr 18

My two cents? Plan for all the traffic and parking needs . Don't allow development to go ahead unless there is a clear plan for plenty of access at peak times and plenty of parking, close to all housing that is built.

Andrew Reisinger 11:54 am 05 Apr 18

🙄Well, people want to live in high rises and utilise light rail. Everyone has the right to a diverse range of public transport, housing and views as far as the eyes can see...

Steve Young 11:37 am 05 Apr 18

Had no say in the light rail debacle, what makes you think you'll get a say in anything else......like their approval to go high rise around Canberra, didn't hear anything on that consultation process.

Peter Buckley 7:47 am 05 Apr 18

There's a system?

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