ACT world-class heat island in the making

ACT Housing fails on biodiversity

One constant theme of residents is the ad hoc planning regimes that enable knock-down rebuilds in established suburbs resulting in a loss of trees, greenery and biodiversity.

There have been numerous announcements and worthy sounding policies that the ACT Greens and Labor fall back on whenever they are challenged about the ongoing reduction in greenery and the subsequent destruction of the city’s precious biodiversity. Keep that in mind as I tell this story.

Walking past an empty block of land at 48 Dumaresq Street in Dickson, I noticed that there was a development application (DA) sign. The house was demolished a couple of years ago and not a lot has happened since.

Being curious, I went online later to see if this was to be yet another supersized double storey mansion – these are now common in the inner suburbs.

I was wrong. The plan is for two residential buildings, single storey with the front one being two bedrooms and the rear being three bedrooms. All good so far even though there was not a lot to indicate anything close to real sustainability measures and at best – maybe even passive housing.

Then I came upon the landscape plan. Absolutely horrible! There is no way that the developer was hoping to get approval for this.

The two buildings are surrounded by concrete, a large area of artificial grass with a thin line of shrubs along the back fence, a few small things in between the buildings and a small patch of lawn out front.

After all that the government has said about what developers should be doing, this developer has side-stepped any aspiration to build in greenery, to create shade, to have porous surface areas (not solid concrete) and to have ample room for residents to establish gardens.

Have we sunk so low that developers are pushing stuff through that ignores every skerrick of policy intention by the ACT Labor/Greens coalition government? This is a world-class example of a heat island in the making.

If this DA was to be brought to the attention of the usual suspects, being the local members Shane Rattenbury and Rebecca Vassarotti (also Environment Minister), the predicted response would be that they would explain (so politely) that they could not intervene as this application is now subject to a decision by the “independent” ACT Planning Authority.

They never let facts get in their way when they make that statement – given that the planning authority is one person – the ACT chief planner – who answers to several ministers – and is in no way independent.

However, there is one major difference with this DA that will allow these fence-sitting politicians to intervene with this appalling DA.

The developer is ACT Housing, that is the developer is the ACT government.

To be clear on this: The developer is the ACT government who is applying to an ACT government agency to have this thing approved. The ACT government is the elected politicians.

This DA by the ACT government, and therefore by the government politicians, flies in the face of everything the ACT government has announced they are doing to bring back the biodiversity and greenery in the suburbs.

So, here’s the challenge. The request.

Someone from within this ACT Labor/Greens coalition needs to have this DA withdrawn and completely redesigned to address the many climate and humane standards we now expect the government to deliver to those it assists into houses.

The future residents of these two houses should be treated with respect. This DA should be withdrawn immediately.

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This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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