I’ve been around Canberra for some time and have experience with some of the silly regulations, rules and decisions made by politicians. I’ve experienced the bureaucracy’s behaviour when regulating these silly rules.
I’ve recently experienced more particularly disturbing behaviours from ACT Government.
Braddon has a group called the ‘Braddon Collective’. It’s a small group of fine, smart people who want to improve safety and liveability in Braddon.
The ACT Government hasn’t shown them much respect. The collective has been given lip-service, and politely ignored, for more than three years now.
They don’t want much. Currently there are no pedestrian crossings in Mort and Lonsdale streets or in the Braddon commercial area in general.
Those who walk slowly, have kids, have a pram, use a cane, use a wheelchair or crutches, are sight impaired, are walking their cute little cavoodle or just want to cross a road safely… well… they should go to Dickson where there are plenty of pedestrian crossings. They certainly aren’t welcome in Braddon.
The Braddon Collective would also like more public toilets. Between the facilities found in the Canberra Centre and the questionable facilities in Haig Park, there are no public toilets.
Is it wrong to want toilets? All those people who want to use pedestrian crossings may want to cross a road safely to use a toilet – but there are no toilets. Maybe that is why there are no pedestrian crossings?
Now we come to Haig Park. In 2019 the government decided to tart it up. Which is great. It is now used more than ever. But they designed it in their own image, so to speak.
At the beginning of the process, they put up signs in the park implying they would put paths where people actually walk – they could see where people walk by the worn grass. Excellent.
But many of the actual paths don’t have a hard surface. The government decided to use loose stones, reminiscent of a dry river bed, in artistic wavy patterns.
The result? Not many people use the gravel paths. You can’t push a pram on the deep, loose stoney path, or ride a bike, or walk in heels, or use a wheelchair or walk with a cane. If you wear thongs or sandals you’ll end up with a stone bruise for sure. As a result, people are walking to the side of the new paths and have worn the grass in new places. So, the Braddon Collective questioned this and sent off a few letters.
A reply from the Chief Minister states: “The crushed rock paths were not intended for wheeled access…”
If the path was deliberately designed not to be wheel friendly, shouldn’t there be a sign warning people of the danger of using the path?
The sign could state: “This path is not to be used by prams, wheelchairs, people in heels, people with canes, people with sight issues, people with young children or people who don’t like walking on gravel.” In short, “please don’t use this path”. The new paths are particularly unsafe for kids learning to ride.
So how arrogant and absurd?
Then it gets better (or worse depending). There were rubbish bins in Lonsdale Street near some takeaway food shops. The bins filled up quickly and one day they disappeared. When the Braddon Collective asked why, the City Renewal Authority (CRA) said it had checked with City Services and the bins got filled up too much.
Rubbish bins in Braddon are not intended to be used, obviously. They should put up a sign saying “please don’t use these bins”.
Then to somehow justify the removal, City Services said the pizza boxes going into the bins were commercial waste.
Does that mean people cannot put a pizza box into their home wheelie bins because those bins are only for domestic waste?
In summary, the ACT Government doesn’t like (in no particular order): people who use wheels; families with kids who live in or visit Braddon; those with disabilities and certainly those with high heels. They don’t like pedestrian crossings. They dislike bikes in Haig Park. They don’t like public toilets. They don’t like people using rubbish bins. They don’t like safe easy-to-walk-on paths in a park.
When will government listen to the community? Surely, it’s not too much to ask for safety and liveability to be taken seriously?
Or is the government and all its bits and pieces old and stale?
Peter Strong was a Canberra business owner and CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA) for 11 years. He now consults on community economics.