Here’s another sad tale about the ACT Government’s patronising attitude towards residents. This one ends with the latest evidence of an approach to Canberra’s urban development that makes it difficult for members of the community to have their say.
The ACT Government knows well that residents in and around Dickson have a keen interest in how their suburbs are changing. Most residents (not all) are supportive of good ideas, good design, aesthetics, biodiversity, trees and many other aspects that enhance the neighbourhood character.
There are well-established planning processes that can be followed for urban development. The ACT Government used to be good at this. It is not so good today. In the last decade what used to be good planning has been manipulated to become ‘Urban Redevelopment’ and any hint of real planning has been reshaped to fit the outcome – being about land sales.
If carried out properly, the processes for introducing change across such established residential areas should provide key indicators on the potential effects of change to the street level, the neighbourhood as well as the whole precinct – being in this case the group of suburbs surrounding the Dickson Group Centre and nearby community and commercial areas.
Several years ago the LDA/Directorate produced a glossy masterplan for the shopping centre. Rather than being a real planning document, this was a superficial marketing document that was short on details and did not place the centre’s future within the wider context of the surrounding suburbs and the Dickson Parklands site nearby.
Over time there have been several calls for the ACT Government to re-think how it goes about urban development and for a full planning document, a Dickson Precinct Plan, to be developed to guide (but not restrict) the necessary redevelopments across this section of the inner north.
No such document has been produced.
Today while residents remain ready and willing to be engaged, the government remains resistant to full and transparent planning process.
Ever now and then we get an insight into how this ACT Government deals with the communities it represents. Wait – did I just say the government represents the community? Such foolish optimism.
If you are a regular reader of these posts you would be aware that there are several areas of on-going tension between Canberra residents and the agencies involved with development – particularly with the Chief Minister and his LDA/Directorate.
Just the other day one of the local residential leaders received an email after seeking representation to have input into the LDA/Directorate’s latest foray into development in the Dickson Parklands precinct.
Apparently someone has thought up a new bright idea (they come about every six months now) to combine knock over the community centre, take back some land and facilities and then to build a brand new Dickson Community Hub. No one locally knows anything about this latest thought bubble as far as I can discover.
Here is the email as received and in circulation – errors not corrected – and the author’s name removed:
By way of clarification, the direct stakeholders in this process are the Canberra Seniors Centre, Northside Community Services and the ACT Property Group. They are the ones with the “direct interest” in the project are can be represented by as many as they desire. The indirect stakeholders are the Northside Community Council and the Dickson Residents Group. They are to be represented by one person from each group and this person consults with their membership separately.
The scope of the project is:
- To develop options to reconfigure, expand, or demolish and rebuild the Majura Community Centre to accommodate, at a minimum, the primary use elements of the Canberra Seniors Centre and Majura Community Centre in the form of a Community Hub.
- To develop additional design options to provide community facilities that would facilitate the relocation of tenants from ageing ACT Government owned community facilities (managed by the ACTPG) is also desired.
The project architect is the latest in a line of consultants that have been sent out to “consult locally”.
The statement suggests to me that the aspirations of the hundreds of residents from the surrounding suburbs remain of little priority in how the Chief Minister’s LDA/Directorate manage development in the Dickson Parklands – a site with a huge potential as a community – cultural – arts – multi-use parkland.
No doubt the government will be informing the residents through this “consultation” just what is best for them and how other parties should be the ones to reap financial gain. Aesthetics, trees and community and arts facilities do not appear to be important considerations for this parkland site – even though the surrounding population continues to grow and the number of apartments is on the rise.
As for carrying out a real planning process for whole site – things will fly past the moon first.
A quick note to the above: Locals welcome new facilities for the ageing population (many of us will be there soon enough). But right now there is no such presence on this site. So why does this particular senior services group get priority over the aspirations of all residents from the surrounding suburb?
There must be someone within this government who cares for the residents – and who can identify with their aspirations.
I wish they would make themselves known to us.