As the election nears, how do we ensure the voices of ordinary voters are heard? We’re in election forum season and the first cab off the rank is the North Canberra Community Council which will hold a virtual election debate tomorrow night (16 September).
Region Media has partnered with the Inner North, Inner South, Tuggeranong and Weston Creek Community Councils to present election debates over the coming weeks, several of which will be filmed and live-streamed across our social media channels.
Challenges in the Inner North are plain as the area develops rapidly, encompassing multiple urban infill developments along the new light rail route. There are huge changes afoot for Dickson, along Northbourne Avenue and around West Basin.
So what do local residents want and need from the ACT Government as their neighbourhood is transformed?
North Canberra Community Council chair Joachim Zeil says their concerns fall into three categories: planning, consultation and compliance. But the Council’s frustration centres on a single theme: the persistent sense that the only recourse available to ordinary citizens is fiddling around the edges of developments that are a foregone conclusion.
“A typical example is Dickson where the whole area is piecemeal developed into little bits,” Joachim says. While he’s insistent that the Council was not opposed to the Common Ground development, for example, he says there should have been consultation about the best location.
“That lack of meaningful consultations means it’s now going to the cheapest place, furthest away from public transport and facilities. Typically, we have locations and designs presented to us and we’re allowed to fiddle around the edges.
“I’d rather see a design competition, the chance for more input from the beginning. Is there an interesting alternative that provides community facilities, that does some good for everyone? Does the design for a project facilitate community spaces and interactions?”
Joachim says that while there’s a planning system review taking place, it’s hard to penetrate and that the environment and planning forum convened by Ben Ponton, the Director-General of Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development, doesn’t allow for much flexibility around the processes.
The Council has asked for a simpler and more straightforward approach, but Jochen says they often find the processes and rationales behind decision making obscure because there’s no easy way for the community to examine them
He’s also concerned by compliance, feeling that too many development applications have basic problems like solar access and parking issues. “Many of us are repeatedly involved with drilling down into compliance issues,” he says.
“That’s not our job, that’s the responsibility of the planning agencies. Yet some of us end up in ACAT, arguing about basic matters that should have been addressed in the development application in the first place.
“Why should that be necessary?”
The North Canberra Community Council’s election forum will be held on Wednesday from 7:00 pm. You can find the Zoom meeting details here.
The forum will include candidates for the seat of Kurrajong from Labor, the Liberals, the Greens, the Canberra Progressives and independent Bruce Paine.
The North Canberra Community Council represents the interests of the local residents, businesses and organisations including the Campbell Community Association; the Dickson Residents Group; the Downer Community Association; the Hackett Community Association; the Lyneham Community Association; the O’Connor Community Inc; the Pialligo Residents’ Association; the Reid Residents’ Association; the Turner Residents’ Association and the Watson Community Association.
What do you think are the most urgent community issues in the Inner North?