ACT Assembly refuses to hear what residents are saying about planning

On Thursday 30th March Jo Clay MLA stood up in the assembly on behalf of the ACT Greens and moved a motion about the chief minister’s planning reforms.

The motion was to urgently have a short inquiry into what residents wished to see as housing developments in their established suburbs.

The chief minister’s proposed reforms blatantly favour opening up of all residential zones for developments. Developers have been pushing for this for years and at last it looks as if Andrew Barr is about to deliver.

One of the major feedback topics within the 400 submissions received was about how the planning directorate is being managed. Residents are aware that the agenda for the planning reforms will allow for more ad-hoc decision making by the planning authority – this being the bureaucracy that already makes development decisions that defy its own rules and guidelines.

People know that the chief minister, Andrew Barr, is on an ideological mission for there to be minimal planning rules. He is convinced that the development industry should define how development happens and that this requires few planning rules. People know from experience that the Barr-style redevelopment of suburban areas delivers less trees, more heat islands, less biodiversity, less facilities and basically not a nice place to be living as climate change kicks in.

Based on her statement on moving the motion, Jo Clay has fallen completely for the developer driven myth called The Missing Middle. This campaign is about increasing opportunities for profits that will do nothing about inequality. This is apparently not a problem for the ACT Greens.

She also thinks that the ACT Greens have delivered 30% canopy within new developments. She needs to check out how this policy has been watered down within the proposed deregulated approach. As a positive, her speech sounded as if she had read some of the community’s submissions. Sadly, it sounded as if the submissions from industry aligned pressure groups are being given priority over hundreds of submissions from residents.

Once Jo Clay had moved her motion, Mark Parton on behalf of the Canberra Liberals spoke about being unsettled about the process of having a motion – moved to hear from residents about what may be about to happen in their suburbs. The Labor Party then quickly moved an alternative motion to delay debate on Jo Clay’s motion until the next sitting in May. This second motion was backed fully by the Canberra Liberals. It was very clear that the Liberals and ACT Labor see no urgency in hearing from residents about the deregulated developments that may be about to happen in their streets, their suburbs and across the city.

While Jo Clay may have known what was going on, most people who found out about this event are still wondering about what the hell was that all about. Performance like this have happened before. The ACT Greens make a short show as if they stand for something valued by residents. Then nothing happens.

On face value, jo Clay’s proposed inquiry involved an urgent and transparent debate about what the development lobby is up to in their efforts to maximise profits at the cost of cherished neighbourhoods within established suburbs. Such an open debate would not be welcomed by the developer lobby and the Canberra Liberals would be very aware of the dangers of upsetting them.

Based on their opposition on this motion to talk more to residents, it looks as though the Canberra Liberals have endorsed the Chief Minister’s sidelining of the residents’ concerns about deregulating planning as well as the proposal to hinder planning and development decisions from being challenged through appeals or even by the assembly itself.

Maybe the Canberra Liberals took this action to indicate that they do not disagree with what the chief minister, the development lobby and the planning bureaucrats are up to.

As for the ACT Greens, it must be remembered that their agreement with ACT Labor delivers well-paid ministerial jobs, enables the Greenslabor agenda that is undoing the benefits of the bush capital and endorses the sidelining of the submissions of the residents.

If the motivation behind her motion was genuine, Jo Clay should immediately set up a meaningful and transparent mechanism for residents to talk about their suburbs and for those views to be seriously considered. Otherwise Canberra is about to be dramatically changed to be a not so nice place to live.

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