Here at the RiotACT, we love opening the site’s “pending” queue to find an unsolicited story from one of you that examines a grass roots issue in our city or the region, whether it’s about online dating scams, a consumer affairs issue or a political matter, is a lament for businesses or public spaces we’d like to see back in action (the pub at the Cotter; the Giralang shops; Ginninderra Falls), or a look at that perennial crowd favourite, UFOs. If something about life in the capital region has you fired up or intrigued during 2017, please get yourself a RiotACT log on and put a short article together. So long as it meets our guidelines, we’ll publish it and share it widely via our social media networks. Who knows, your work of citizen journalism might be just the catalyst for change your community has been looking for.
10. Ask RiotACT: Strange object in northern skies at sunset
On May 18, the obligatory UFO story for 2016 appeared, thanks to reader Matyas, who posted two photographs of mysterious object in the northern skies in an article asking fellow readers whether they knew what it was. Matyas thought it may be a weather balloon. “The shape had two bright patches on either end, and had a dull strip in the centre,” the reader wrote. “It did not move, change shape or brightness the whole time, nor did it have any strobe lights. It had a short protrusion from its base, which is visible in all photos I took.” Readers quickly posted their theories on the object via comments, with several noting a NASA high altitude balloon had recently been launched in New Zealand.
9. How long will Cotter Road Stage 2 take?
Roadworks and their duration in various sites around Canberra made a regular appearance on the RiotACT in 2016. CrankyCanberran wrote a piece expressing his frustration about what he or she viewed as a lack of progress on the Cotter Road State 2 project, and suggesting some workarounds to help the Government and its contractors to get the jobs done more quickly. ‘I’m sure a number of you saw the “Cotter Road duplication commencing mid October, weather permitting” electronic sign on the side of the road back in early October,” CrankyCanberran wrote. “It’s now 4 weeks later and they’ve had some amazing progress. They’ve constructed a sign advising of the works, put up temporary fencing on one side of cotter road a week or so ago, and as of yesterday, seem to be cutting down some trees.”
8. Restoring the ACT Flag to the vision of its designer
On November 2, we ran an opinion piece by Steven Squires arguing for a change to the ACT flag. “The ACT Flag already has most of the elements of a great flag in place” Steven wrote. “It uses the ACT colours blue and gold. It has the Southern Cross, a great symbol recognising the ACT as a part of the common Australian identity. However, the design has one mistake, which mars a potentially great symbol: The overly complex and heraldically incorrect Canberra Coat of Arms placed on the right of the design.” We added a poll to his article asking readers what they thought about the flag, and more than 500 readers responded. Half of those preferred Steven’s concept, which replaces the coat of arms with our official flower, the native bluebell, to the status quo. Some 36% were happy with the current flag, while 14% would prefer to see a flag without the coat of arms but were not keen on the bluebell concept.
7. Time to shift the ACT border and re-open Ginninderra Falls
It was refreshing to discover an unsolicited opinion piece about Ginninderra Falls by Greens candidate for Ginninderra Indra Esguerra in the queue on September 13. The three major parties bombarded us with press releases throughout the ACT Legislative Assembly election campaign, so the approach of submitting the article in the same way any other reader would without applying any pressure via media advisers made a nice change. The fact that the article was well written and touched on an issue that inspired waves of nostalgia for many of us meant that it resonated upon publication, too. Ms Esguerra was not elected to the Assembly and Ginninderra Falls remains closed to the public, but discussions continue between Yass Valley Council and the ACT Government about the the possibility of an agreement to move the border to allow the setting up of new nature reserves in the area.
6. Parking a problem at Ainslie shops
A regular in our comments streams, wildturkeycanoe took his participation in the RiotACT up a notch on October 21, submitting a piece about his frustrations at a lack of parking at the Ainslie shops. “On certain days it is a nightmare,” he wrote. “My wife works there on random hours and now, even though she leaves early because of the chaos across Northbourne, she can’t get a park anywhere on Wednesdays. All the side streets are limited time, so unuseful.” Readers responded in droves, with more than three dozen comments on the article varying from expressions of sympathy and comparisons with their own experiences there and at other shopping centres around town to practical tips about nearby streets that offered an alternative to parking at the bustling cafe precinct itself. Less helpful were suggestions about public transport given the OP had explained his wife’s need to be there fast at unscheduled times.
5. Another kick in the guts for Giralang
Giralang resident Andrew Zed is not alone in his frustrations at the lack of a supermarket (or indeed any retail outlets at all) at the site of the former Giralang shops. The shopping centre has languished without a supermarket for 12 years due to a drawn out stoush over what is to be built there (see the Giralang Residents Action Group site for a short history of the long-running delays). Andrew reflected in this September 14 article, though, on what he saw as the wider neglect of the suburb. “Maintaining the suburb has been ignored to the point where in the whole suburb there is now not one single bench and table to picnic at, the public phone has been removed, sports seating has been removed and there have been no new trees planted in the last year,” he wrote. “Removal of dangerous trees has now been reduced to lopping all limbs off and leaving the trunks in place.”
4. We need another pub/kiosk at the Cotter Reserve
Like Indra Esguerra’s piece on Ginninderra Falls, this November 12 article from reader Patrick had the nostalgia factor for many Canberrans. They remember stopping in for a beer at the old Cotter Reserve Hotel before it was burnt down in the 2003 fires. “What are your thoughts on the ACT government putting out a tender for a contractor to build a new pub and kiosk [at the Cotter] … as well as tendering for a publican and a kiosk operator to man these establishments on weekends?” Patrick asked. “It sounds like a no brainer to me and would be money well worth spending on our local tourism industry.” It turns out plans are afoot for a new development on the site. The Cotter Hub is a project focused on created a recreational, catering, cultural and accommodation precinct at the Cotter Reserve later this decade.
3. Cheap trick on Tuggeranong
On August 15, just a couple of months out from the ACT election, Traces_of_Nut took to the RiotACT to express frustration about the state of the Tuggeranong Town Centre precinct and a lack of consultation and scope on planned upgrades. The article referred to the town centre as “a terrible example of poor planning” that was “very dated, dirty, and a failure”. “The precinct failed to optimise the water frontage by placing the library and other education/civic facilities on the water’s edge,” it continued. But in true RiotACT contributor style, the writer didn’t just moan about it, instead devoting several paragraphs to ways the ACT Government could address the perceived planning failings. This piece struck a chord with many RiotACT readers, attracting dozens of comments in a year in which the north-south divide became more pronounced than ever as construction got underway on stage one of the light rail project.
2. No pricing at Woolworth for shopping bags
Chris “Mordd” Richards’ dominates the business end of this top ten, starting with an extensively researched July 26 consumer affairs piece on the fact that Woolworths had failed to provide adequate pricing signage for its plastic bags, not just in one store, but across the capital. “At the checkout next to me, an elderly gentleman from out of state, on his first visit to Canberra, was also paying for his groceries,” Chris wrote. “All of a sudden, a Woolworths team member comes almost running up, and loudly accuses the gentleman of trying to steal the plastic bag, as he had not scanned it. The gentleman protested that he didn’t know he had to pay for a bag, and then pointed out that there is no sign saying this, nor a price indicating how much the payment even is.” Chris’s citizen journalism led directly to Woolworths changing its checkout set-up to ensure the price of the bags was clear to its customers.
1. How not to get scammed on Tinder
Chris “Mordd” Richards takes out the top spot in our reader contributed top ten, too, with his very honest and personal May 10 piece about being scammed on Tinder. Soon after joining the online dating platform, Chris connected with a woman called Shaniqua who invited him to take their conversations beyond Tinder by chatting via Skype. She then asked him to register with another site to verify who he was before they met, which involved handing over credit card details leading to the scam: $US39.99 disappeared from his credit card after he hit submit, and the next page that appeared was from a porn site. Chris immediately put a block on his card and took steps to prevent others from suffering the same fate, including putting this article together. We’re looking forward to reading more from Mordd in 2017.
Check back tomorrow for our top ten opinion pieces of 2016.