Almost every day I walk by a set of new apartments here in Dickson. These are now part of the history of the push by residents not to have rubbish developments plonked in the area.
It is sad to watch yet another community, namely Red Hill, now being put through the mill. They are not objecting to developments on the site in question, but rather that what is being proposed is simply overkill and inappropriate for the area.
It is times such as these that attract the comments from the pro-development advocates that the residents are simply NIMBYs. If only it was so simple.
So let’s go back to that set of apartments in Dickson. When they were first proposed there was a total shock wave through this part of the suburb. The objections were clear. The proposal was for a host of tiny apartments all crowded together. It was far too much for these blocks.
The residents took the approach to be positive. We sat down with the developer and outlined what would be acceptable and where there were examples of a better solution. We did not hear back.
The residents invited the planning minister to a forum to work on solutions. Instead, the then planning minister (now chief minister) and his ACTPLA chief were not receptive to alternatives. They suggested very clearly that the suburb was overrun with older people who needed to move on and leave it to the next generation who wanted this style of mini-apartments*.
To prove a point, a group young labor members had been imported into the hall. No one had seen these people before. Their contribution was to loudly support the minister whenever he spoke and to shout down any opposition. It was not a good scene.
In the end ACTPLA approved the DA.
Then followed a very painful process of taking ACTPLA and the developer to ACAT. The government and the developers employed very expensive attack-dog style lawyers who made the whole matter very personal.
They lost the case.
ACTPLA was very unhappy about that given the amount of money and resources that had been dedicated to the affair.
We waited. And waited. Eventually, maybe a year later, a new DA appeared. It was more or less what had been suggested as the alternative solution in the beginning. The residents supported it. It has since been built.
So in this case, the residents were being NIMBY-like and were very happy to be so. They did not want ‘that set of apartments’ in this neighbourhood. But they were happy to see something reasonable.
One would have thought that with a few cases such as this, that the LDA or whoever would have learnt that residents do not want certain rubbish built in their back yards.
Unfortunately it seems that the Red Hill residents are being pushed around in manner that repeats all the mistakes from many earlier episodes.
These people need due recognition for the fact that it is their place of residence, their suburb, and that it is their lives that will be effected by the planning and development mistakes that about to be made through the LDA/ACTPLA processes.
Residents should be able to live out their lives enjoying their suburbs and being able to participate in a positive and intelligent program of changes to their surroundings. Surely that is what good government is about.
It is time to reclaim that title as being the group of people in the suburbs who are dedicated to calling a stop to the rubbish stuff and have a strong desire for good design that adds to the area and addresses the environmental issues – and that enhances, not diminishes, the green infrastructure and biodiversity of the suburbs.
Long live the NIMBYs.
*1. About the Minister’s comments: Someone did not do his homework – as the ABS at the time stated the average age in Dickson was in the mid 30s.
2. The big issue not mentioned in this tale is that the building requirements are still unsatisfactory – as observed time and time again as apartments are constructed.